We love Halloween. There’s something for everyone. Whether you go full-on with costume and decorating your house or whether you just like a cosy Autumnal hot chocolate, late October festivities are a firm favourite in colder countries. One of the main things we look forward to, of course, is the promise of Halloween Treats. Halloween chocolate and sweets have become a staple of Halloween – but why? Let’s have a look at the evolution of Halloween and how it’s become such a glorious choc-fest.
The history of Halloween
Many of us have come to think of Halloween as a festival imported from our friends across the Atlantic – and many of the ways in which we celebrate do come from the US. However, Halloween is an ancient tradition that started with the Iron Age Celts, who inhabited Britain, Ireland and northern France. The festival ‘Samhain’ marked the New Year and the beginning of winter. This was a time that signalled death and rebirth, marking the harvest and the foreboding of the harsh northern European winter.
The festival was marked with fire and sacrifices to the gods and over the three day period, the spirit world merged with our world. The world of the gods was thought to be visible and the souls of the dead returned to Earth.
Enter the Romans, who adopted and adapted the Autumn celebrations. It is thought that they blended their celebration of Pomona with Samhain. Pomona was dedicated to Pomona, the goddess of fruits. Since the Romans introduced apples to Celtic Europe, it’s likely that the tradition of bobbing for apples started with them. This celebration of both harvest and those gone before us was later strategically merged with All Hallows, an existing festival that was moved to November 1st. All Hallows was originally a festival to honour Christina martyrs and saints and this cunning move was instigated by Pope Gregory III as part of a drive to persuade Pagans to accept Christianity.
Thanks, that’s interesting but why Halloween treats?
The Celts believed that the spirits came visiting on October 31 and had to be appeased with food and drink. People dressed up as the spirits and received offerings on their behalf in the belief that this would protect them from the souls of the dead.
Food and drink continued to be a central feature of the festival. In Britain and Ireland, bands of ‘soulers’ went from house to house singing ancient ‘souling’ rhymes and ‘soul cakes’ were handed out in exchange for a prayer for the departed. This tradition persisted, with the prayers becoming closer to begging songs over time. costumes became more common and some groups threatened mischief if they were not paid in cakes or other food.
You can see where this is going. The tradition of ‘guising’, as it became known as, remained in Scotland and Ireland and immigration took it across the Atlantic to the US.
When trick or treating really took off in the early fifties, a trick or treater could expect fruit, cakes or cookies, little toys or even coins when they knocked on doors. As the practice became more popular, households began to give out sweets and chocolates to treat their spooky little visitors at Halloween As well as being what all kids really want, sweets and chocolates are practical and safe, as they’re easy to grab and less likely to be tampered with.
It’s amazing to think how long the Autumn festival has lasted, although our glitzy celebrations are quite a contrast to the fire and appeasing of the spirits of our Celtic ancestors.
PS We've got all the treats your little monsters need in our online shop.