Our celebration of Halloween has deep and ancient roots. The Celtic Festival of Samhain predates Christianity. This pagan holiday celebrated the end of the growing season. Bonfires were lit to thank the gods for a plentiful harvest and curry favor for the following year. The Celts recognized that the light of summer and fall would soon turn to the cold, darkness of winter.

The Catholic Church recognized the importance of Samhain to the Celts. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III established “All Hallows Eve” on October 31st and “All Saints Day” to fall on November 1st. These holidays displayed a similar reverence for death and re-birth.

In the 9th century “All Souls Day” was added, which most resembles modern day Halloween. Jack O’Lanterns were carved from gourds and turnips, meant to light the way for lost souls and ward off dark spirits. Children wore costumes to confuse the spirits; this was called “guising” or disguising themselves from ghosts.

Not surprising with its Celtic origins, Halloween came to America via Irish immigrants. As you can see below in an article from the Boston Daily Globe in 1884, Halloween is seen as a love letter to Ireland and the traditions they brought over.

The Boston Daily Globe, October 31, 1884

Postcard, sent October 30, 1908 to Ednah and George Horner, West Peabody

Thanksgiving Postcard with Halloween imagery, sent November 25th, 1909 to Ednah Horner, West Peabody, cropped by author

In these postcards – you will see some familiar Halloween imagery. Black cats were believed to aid witches in their dark magic.

Postcard sent to Miss Ednah Horner, West Peabody on October 31st, 1911.

Postcard sent on October 30th, 1924 to Roger Felt of 82 Clement Avenue, Peabody.

In the 20th century, Halloween deviates further from its religious origins. The secular celebration we know today is synonymous with candy and mischief!

The Salem News, October 30, 1914

The Peabody Times, October 1931

The Peabody Times, October 1954

The Lynn Item – Photographer Walter Hoey – At Fatima’s Pastry Shop – left to right – Jennie Tremblay, Bethany Esposito, Jacklyn Esposito and Jessica Esposito, October 25, 1991.










The Lynn Item – Photographer Walter Hoey – 3 year old Justin Kaminski gets candy from Shoes by Joanna employee Maria Solomos, October 1991.

The Lynn Item – Photographer Walter Hoey. Pictured, Louis and Jimmy Leontakianakos get candy from Peabody video employee John Skelly, October 1991.


Brown University Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology, “Samhain Origins”, 2009. https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Joukowsky_Institute/courses/13things/7448.html

Massachusetts Commonwealth Museum. Online Exhibit. Halloween: History of a Holiday. https://www.sec.state.ma.us/mus/onlineexhibits/halloween/halloween.html

Thomas, Heather. “The Origins of Halloween Traditions.” Library of Congress Blog, October 26, 2021.  https://blogs.loc.gov/headlinesandheroes/2021/10/the-origins-of-halloween-traditions/

University of New York, Albany. “The Origins of Halloween” https://www.albany.edu/~dp1252/isp523/halloween.html