We associate Halloween with witches, goblins, ghosts, and other spooky things. But the word Halloween actually means “holy evening.”
Centuries ago, Celtic people in Europe celebrated a festival on October 31, which was the last day of their year and the end of their harvest season.
Many Celts believed that on this night, the spirits of death met to gather up the souls of all those who had died in the previous year, or to visit the living for warmth as winter neared. Witches also were thought to meet on Halloween. To protect themselves from these wandering spirits, people lit bonfires.
When Christianity came to Europe, the first two days of November became religious holidays, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. But the night before All Saints’ Day, called “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween,” was still thought of as a spooky night, a night for witches.
The custom of “trick or treat” on Halloween began in Ireland, where groups of people went from house to house asking for food and gifts for the festival held on that night.