Hallowe’en Traditions


Wearing of Costumes


The wearing of costumes and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons.

 Offerings of food and drink were left out to calm them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called "mumming", from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved.


In medieval times, one popular All Souls' Day practice was to make "soul cakes," simple bread desserts with a currant topping. In a custom called "souling," children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, much like modern trick-or-treaters.

For every cake a child collected, he or she would have to say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake.

These prayers would help the relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven. The children even sang a soul cake song. One version of the song went:

A soul cake!
A soul cake!
Have mercy on all Christian souls, for
A soul cake!


As part of the Samhain celebration, Celts would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of the night. They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips, creating a lantern resembling the modern day jack-o'-lantern.


A very popular character in Irish folk tales was "Stingy Jack", a disreputable miser who, on several occasions, avoided damnation by tricking the devil (often on All Hallows' Eve). In one story, he convinced Satan to climb up a tree for some apples, and then cut crosses all around the trunk so the devil couldn't climb down. The devil promised to leave Jack alone forever, if he would only let him out of the tree.

When Jack eventually died, he was turned away from Heaven, due to his life of sin. But, in keeping with their agreement, the Devil wouldn't take Jack either. He was cursed to travel forever as a spirit in limbo. As Jack left the gates of Hell, the Devil threw him a hot ember to light the way in the dark. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip, and wandered off into the world. According to the Irish legend, you might see Jack's spirit on All Hallows' Eve, still carrying his turnip lantern through the darkness.



The word comes from the original word "boon-fire"; a huge fire built to honor the spirits of the air, to invoke favors. It was also used to drive off "evil" spirits.

Bad Luck Superstitions

  • Black Cats

Black cats were associated with the witch hunts of the middle ages when they were thought to be connected to evil. Since then, it is considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path.

  • Salt

At one time salt was rare to have and thought to have magical powers. It was unfortunate to spill salt and said to foretell family problems and death. To ward off bad luck, throw a pinch over your shoulder and all will be well.

  • Ladders

In the days before the gallows, criminals were hung from the top rung of a ladder and their spirits were believed to linger underneath. Common folklore has it to be bad luck to walk beneath an open ladder and pass through the triangle of evil ghosts and spirits.





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    Good Luck Superstitions


  • An onion cut in half and placed under the bed of a sick person will draw off fever and poisons.


  • Light a candle on the night of November 1 for each deceased relative and place in a window.


  • Windows in a deceased person's home should be opened to allow his soul to leave the body.


  • Carry a bent nail in your pocket for luck.



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