The tradition of Halloween in the UK is over 2000 years old. It dates back to the time of the Celts (600 BC-50 AD), who celebrated the end of summer and the gathering in of the harvest with a festival called ‘Samhain’. This took place on the night of 31st October.
Even all this long way back in time, the 31st October had connections with spirits and ghosts. The Celts believed that on this night, the souls of the dead would be able to cross over to our world and communicate with the living as a result of weakened boundaries between the two worlds.
The custom of ‘trick-or-treating’, today a large part of Halloween celebrations, could possibly have part of its roots in the tradition of the baking of soul cakes. This was an important feature of All Souls’ Day (similar to the way we associate hot cross buns with Good Friday today), when beggars would wander from house to house, receiving gifts of food and money. In return for a soul cake, these ‘soulers’ would be expected to say prayers for those who had recently died, to speed up their passage through purgatory and into heaven. The ‘trick’ part of the custom appears to have arisen in the USA in the 1930s, where Halloween became to be associated with the playing of pranks and jokes.