Why do we go trick or treating and wear costumes on Halloween?

The nights are drawing in, the leaves are falling off the tries and something spooky is coming this way.

Monday, 29th October 2018, 3:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st October 2019, 2:00 pm
A Bull Terrier dog in a Halloween costume. Picture: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It is almost time for Halloween – so make sure you have sorted your costumes and are ready to carve your pumpkin. 

But it can be hard to remember exactly when Halloween is - or why we celebrate it. 

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Here's all you need to know: 

When is Halloween? 

Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints' Eve, takes place on October 31 every year. 

So in 2019, Halloween falls on today. 

Why do we call it Halloween? 

The word Halloween dates back to around 1745 – and means Hallowed Evening and comes from a shortening of All Hallows’ Eve. 

With All Hallows’ Eve coming the night before November 1, which is the holy day All Saints’ Day in Christianity celebrating all the saints. 

Why do we celebrate Halloween? 

Halloween has been part of British culture for centuries - with All Hallows’ Eve forming part of the celebration of Allhallowtide. 

Which lasts from October 31 to November 2 and includes Halloween, All Saints' Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. 

All Souls’ Day is a day in the Christian calendar when the dead are commemorated and remembered. 

Where does trick-or-treating and dressing up come from?

Modern Halloween traditions like trick-or-treating, stem from the past - in England during the medieval period where Christians practising 'souling' on Halloween when they would go from parish to parish asking for rice of soul cakes in exchange for praying for their soul. 

The practice was carried on from the medieval days until the 1930s in England – and soul cakes are small round cakes usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices. 

Guising – children dressing in costumes going from door to door asking for food or coin – was prevalent in Scotland and Ireland by the late 19th century. 

In 1895 it was recorded that in Scotland children were going round in costumes with lanterns carved out of turnips. 

Both of these traditions were carried over to America and became the Halloween we know today – with spooky costumes and children gathering bags full of sweets. 

Christians were encouraged to abstain from eating meat on All Hallows’ Eve and as such was the reason vegetarian food like pumpkins became associated with the holiday. 

As well as other treats like toffee/ candy apples.