Halloween is the annual holiday celebrated on 31st October every year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. This year, the day is to be observed on Thursday.

The word Halloween is presented as the contraction of the phrase Hallow’s Eve, earlier called as Allhalloween. It is believed to be originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced as Sow-in) when people light bonfires and wear costumes to turn away ghosts.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and here began the dark, cold winter. Winter was the time of year often associated with human death. Celts believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead went vague on the night of the last harvest. This, in turn, made the ghosts of the dead return to earth.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints. The evening before was named as All Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween. Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England in its initial days. However, with the emergence of cross-culture beliefs and customs, a recognizable American version of Halloween started unfolding.

Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities and fun games. Public events to celebrate the harvest and share stories of the dead entered into the picture. Fun activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, donning costumes and eating sweet treats became apparent.

The tradition of ‘trick-or-treating’ probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. Poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The practice, which was referred to as ‘going a-souling’ was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighbourhood and be given ale, food and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. To avoid being recognized by the ghosts who were believed to return to earth, people wore masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts mistook them for fellow spirits.

Since Halloween welcomes dark and cold winter, a lot is there to treat the taste buds. Being associated with Halloween, these edibles have unique presentation and flavour and so are the names.

Some of them include:

Barmbrack (Ireland)
Bonfire toffee (Great Britain)
Candy apples/toffee apples (Great Britain and Ireland)
Candy apples, candy corn, candy pumpkins (North America)
Chocolate
Monkey nuts (peanuts in their shells -Ireland and Scotland)
Caramel apples
Caramel corn
Colcannon (Ireland; see below)
Halloween cake
Sweets/candy
Novelty candy shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms, etc.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted sweet corn
Soul Cakes