Sample Research Paper: The Origin of Halloween

Research PaperReligion

research paper is a written project that utilizes evidence from scholarly sources to advance and support a claim or thesis statement. It is part of a student’s coursework whether in high school, college, graduate, or post-graduate. This sample research paper explains the origin of Halloween and why it is an acceptable tradition.

There are good reasons why Halloween is one of the most popular and beloved holidays not only in the United States but in many other parts of the world. It comes a month before December’s yuletide season, which in turn makes it an unofficial kickoff for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. But more than this, Halloween is filled with its decorations, lore, and festivities. No Halloween is complete without jack-o’-lanterns, costumes, trick-or-treating, sharing scary stories, and horror film marathons. But for all its popularity, not many people actually know how Halloween became a time-honored and beloved tradition. So, what exactly is Halloween? When did this tradition start and why do people celebrate it? Is the tradition right or wrong? While the word “Halloween” is derived from an ancient Christian feast, many aspects of the celebration come from different cultures including Christian and Celtic practices. Its continuous transformation also serves as grounds for why it should be considered an acceptable tradition.

Halloween’s Christian Origins

The name “Halloween” comes from an ancient Christian feast. While the term as it is popularly called now first came to use in the mid-18th century, its roots can be traced to as far back as the 7th century. On May 13, 609 AD, Pope Boniface IV converted the Roman temple known as the Pantheon in Rome to a Christian church, rededicating the temple that was meant to honor all the Roman gods to a church that honors all Christian martyrs. Commemorating all the Christian martyrs was not new, as early Christians were known to do this as early as the 4th century. But the conversion of the temple established the date for All Martyrs’ Day. More than a century later, Pope Gregory III moved the date to November 1 to coincide with the dedication of an oratory in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He also expanded the feast to include all saints, thus establishing November 1 as the official date for All Saints’ Day (Saunders). Another century later, November 2 was appointed as All Souls’ Day (Butler 12), thus making the two dates the time to commemorate the faithful and the departed. As for the term “Halloween,” it comes from “All Hallows’ Eve.” All Saints’ Day was also known as All Hallows’ Day in Ireland and Scotland. All Hallows’ Eve, therefore, refers to the night before All Hallows’ Day. Over time, All Hallows’ Day was shortened to the term “Hallowe’en” until it eventually became known as “Halloween” (Luck). Since it was the Scottish and Irish immigrants who brought this tradition to the United States, the holiday became widely known as Halloween in North America (Rogers 49-50).

Pagan Influences

Although Halloween derives its name from a firmly Christian tradition, the practices that have come to epitomize the holiday have distinctly Celtic origins. Around 2,000 years ago, people known as the Celts lived in the British Isles and northern France. The Celts were pagan and held a celebration called the Samhain every November 1, although festivities began on the night of October 31. Samhain marked the end of the summer harvest season and the beginning of the winter season. It also heralded the arrival of longer nights and shorter days. The Celts believed that during Samhain, the line that divides the world of the living and the realm of the dead becomes thinner or blurred. When this happens, the spirits of the dead along with other malevolent entities can enter the world of the living and even bring harm to those who have wronged them. People lit huge bonfires to scare vengeful spirits and entities. Foods and drinks were left outside as offerings to appease them. In some parts, people performed mumming and disguising, which involved the donning of costumes imitating supernatural creatures. They then traveled from house to house where they received food and drinks in exchange for songs or poems. The Celts considered the costumed travelers as receiving the offerings on behalf of the actual spirits and entities. Scholars consider mumming and guising as the inspiration for modern-day trick-or-treating (Hutton 380).

Although the Celts were eventually converted to Christianity following the spread of the religion, many of the practices remained. As Saunders states, “some of these pagan customs remained in the English-speaking world for All Hallows Eve (or Halloween, All Saints Eve), perhaps at first more out of superstition and later, more out of fun.” It is important to note that the adoption of one religion does not necessarily result in the abandonment of the old religion; rather, it results in the blending of cultures, as in the case of pagan practices finding their way into a Christian feast. This is the reason why Halloween in many countries features both pagan and Christian practices. For example, Halloween in most of the United States features wearing costumes and trick-or-treating, which have pagan roots, but it is not uncommon for communities to also regard this date as an opportunity to commemorate the departed through prayers and worship services (Rogers 103-106). Similarly, many countries observe this as both a secular holiday and a religious festival, especially in places with a significant Christian presence. Mexico, for instance, holds its Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead on November 2, which integrates both Catholic and indigenous customs (Rogers 121).

Is Halloween Good or Bad?

That Halloween is an amalgamation of both Christian and pagan ways begs the question of whether its observance is good or bad. For decades now, some groups and individuals have been very vocal against the practice. Conservative Christian groups, in particular, argue that Halloween promotes evil by encouraging people to imitate and celebrate malignant entities like monsters, witches, and demons (Waxman). It must be noted, however, that observing Halloween is not bad. The concept of Halloween is not owned by a single person or group. While it is true that this holiday has its roots in Catholic tradition, it has continually transformed over the centuries, integrating practices and customs from numerous cultures. As shown by the example of Mexico, Halloween continuously changes, its expressions expanding as different cultures lend their influences to the festival. To consider its observance as bad based on narrow Christian standards is therefore not only intolerant but also disregards centuries of cultural exchange that have made Halloween the global feast that it is today. In other words, the observance of Halloween should not be obligated to conform to this narrow standard because it is the product of different cultures and people.


While Halloween is often thought of as a Christian feast, it is an amalgamation of different cultural influences, most notably Catholic and Celtic. The date for Halloween can be attributed to the Roman Catholic Church, which proclaimed November 1 as All Saints’ Day in the 8th century. On the other hand, many of the modern customs observed in western countries today are modernized versions of ancient Celtic traditions that remained even after their conversion to Christianity. These were eventually brought by Scottish and Irish immigrants to the United States where they have become beloved customs. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

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Works Cited

Butler, Alban. “St. Odilo, Abbot.” Butler's Lives of the Saints Volume I, edited by Herbert J. Thurston and Donald Attwater, Maryland, Christian Classics, 1990.

Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996.

Luck, Steve. The American desk encyclopedia. New York, George Philip Limited, 1998.

Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Saunders, William. “All Saints and All Souls.” Catholic Education and Resource Center, Accessed 1 November 2021.

Waxman, Olivia B. “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween? Here's Why That Question Has Been Picking Up Steam Since the 1960s.” Time, 30 Oct. 2019, Accessed 1 November 2021.

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