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Halloween Traditions and Their Origins

Halloween traditions

Halloween is almost here and so I thought I’d find out some fun facts about the origins of Halloween traditions. I don’t remember much about Halloween as a kid, as it wasn’t much of a thing in South Africa, where I grew up, at least not in those days. So the first exposure I had to trick or treating was when I had my own children.

And now it’s become a huge deal! Halloween decorations are in the shops as soon as the kids are back at school. Halloween parties give us adults an excuse to dress up too. And costumes are getting fancier and scarier each year! But where did all these spooky customs come from? Here are the origins of four of our modern Halloween traditions.

4 modern Halloween traditions

Wearing Halloween costumes ๐Ÿ‘ป

Halloween has been linked to Samhain, the Celtic festival marking the end of summer. It was believed that the veil between the living and the spirit world was thinnest at this time and spirits could cross over. People would keep the ghosts at bay by lighting sacrificial bonfires and dressing up in costumes, which is why we still wear fancy dress on Halloween today.

Trick or treating ๐Ÿฌ

Trick or treating became popular in the US early in the twentieth century when Irish and Scottish communities over there revived the Medieval custom of ‘guising’. This involved dressing up in costumes and going from door to door performing ‘tricks’ such as reciting poems or singing songs in exchange for food or money.

Bobbing for apples ๐ŸŽ

This tradition originated as a divination ritual for people to find out who their future spouse might be. They’d bob their heads in water while trying to bite apples that would give them a clue. There seem to have been different versions of this. In one the ladies would mark an apple before tossing it in a tub of water and the man who pulled it out would likely be their future spouse. In another the women would bob their heads in water while trying to bite into apples that were named for their male suitors.

Jack O’Lanterns ๐ŸŽƒ

This tradition originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes were carved into decorations. It’s based on an Irish folk tale about a drunkard named Jack who managed to trap the devil in a tree by hacking a cross into the bark. Jack had Satan vow never to take his soul in exchange for allowing him down from the tree. Unfortunately, because he wasn’t a very good guy he wasn’t allowed into heaven when he died, and of course the devil couldn’t allow him into hell either, and threw a hot coal at him. Jack put the burning coal inside a turnip and used it as a lantern as he wandered around trying to find an eternal resting place.

Nowadays most people carve pumpkins into Halloween decorations. Looking at these carved turnips I think I can understand why – they’re much scarier looking and would probably terrify the kids! ๐Ÿ˜†

Bonus Halloween Fact

While I was researching these Halloween traditions I came across another fun fact that I couldn’t not share! Watching the Halloween movies at this time of year has become a tradition in its own right. But did you know that the iconic creepy mask worn by Michael Myers in the movie was based on a Star Trek mask? The original movie was on a very tight budget so they ended up using a cheap Captain James Kirk mask, which was spray painted white and had the eye holes reshaped. Who knew that William Shatner could look this terrifying with such minor adjustments?

Michael Myers Horror GIF by absurdnoise - Find & Share on GIPHY

Happy Halloween! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

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Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween costume ideas

This year there probably won’t be any trick or treating, but with these Halloween costume ideas the kids can still dress up and have a party at home, complete with spooky atmosphere and gross snacks. And once they’re in fancy dress I’m pretty sure they won’t care if they can’t go door to door as long as they don’t miss out on their treats ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿซ

Here’s one of the best (and creepiest) children’s Halloween costume ideas I’ve ever seen ๐Ÿ˜ฑ


If you’re not too traumatised to read on, then I’ve found some more great Halloween costume ideas for kids of all ages.ย Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission if you buy via them, but it won’t cost you anything extra!

Halloween costume ideas for babies

These outfits from Time To Dress Up on Not On The High Street are so cute I almost (but not quite) wish my boys were babies again…

Baby's Bat Dress Up Costume
Baby’s Bat Dress Up Costume

Baby's Dinosaur Dress Up Costume
Baby’s Dinosaur Dress Up Costume

Or keep it simple with this playsuit from ImaginariumPresents on Etsy that’s very appropriate for the times we’re currently in…

Halloween costume ideas for kids

This personalised astronaut fancy dress costume isn’t cheap, but as it’s not specific to Halloween it would make a great present if your child has a birthday around this time.

Personalised Astronaut Spaceman Costume
Personalised Astronaut Spaceman Costume

Or if you’d like them to have something they can get a little bit more general wear out of then this comfy looking pumpkin hoodie from QuriousShop on Etsy is just the trick (or treat?) It comes in adult sizes too if you think it’s more your thingย ๐Ÿ˜„

Orange Pumpkin Face Halloween Hoodie
Orange Pumpkin Face Halloween Hoodie

Make your own

Of course, with all the face masks we have handy at the moment, the quickest and easiest Halloween costume would be a doctor or nurse. Just use an old white shirt as a lab coat and pop on a face mask. Add some blood and gore with red marker pens or ketchup for extra scare-factor!

And finally…

For those of you who are that way inclined, you can of course dress your pet(s) up too! Be kind though…


ย Ridiculously cute…


My favourite though is this Sherlock Holmes outfit for a rabbit

Sherlock Holmes Rabbit Halloween Costume
Sherlock Holmes Rabbit Halloween Costume

I think I’ll leave it at that! Looking forward to seeing your outfits on social media ๐Ÿ‘ป๐ŸงŸโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’€