Halloween has long been a favorite holiday, a day for trick-or-treating, parties, costumes and candy. Where did these Halloween traditions come from, and what was their original purpose? The one-hour documentary The Real Story of Halloween uncovers the true history of the holiday, from its sacred roots to today's secular celebrations of hidden identity and marvelous masquerade. The special explores Halloween's origins, tracing it back to the Samhain festivals of the ancient Celts, when communities would gather around November 1 to mark the end of summer. This was also the time of year when the spirits of those who had died were thought to return to visit their homes. As a result, ghosts and fairies became associated with these observances, including the Roman festivals of Feralia.

Later, the Catholic Church established November 1 as All Saint's Day, a "hallowed" or holy day that followed observances of the end of summer. The day before, October 31, became known as "hallowed eve" or Halloween. The mass European immigration of the mid-19th century brought Halloween lore and traditions to the United States, and over time the holiday morphed into the festive day children and adults enjoy each October 31. Teachers may want to show this program before or during the Halloween season to give their students historical perspective on this popular holiday.

Curriculum Links:
The Real Story of Halloween would be useful for American history, world history, social studies and current events courses. It would be a good fit with afterschool programs or school activities related to Halloween. It is appropriate for sixth grade and above.

More from History.com:
Read more and watch short videos about Halloween history

Halloween By the Numbers: Interactive