Fill Your Bucket – It’s Halloween!

How did the confectionery industry come to dominate Halloween celebrations?

Samhain (pronounced sah-win) is a Celtic festival which was held to mark the last day of harvest and  happened around this time of year.

It was marked by bonfires and feasting.  As the days were getting shorter, it was also associated with a thinning of the veil between this world and the next.  The Celts believed that the souls of the dead could visit their former homes looking for food and shelter.

Food from the feasting was set aside for them and maybe a place was set at the table.

The Romans then introduced apples to Britain.  Apples are ready at this time of year and were introduced to the feast.  Apples became used for divination – peel with a sharp knife in one long strip. Chuck peel over your shoulder to see the future.  Apples strung from a washing line like string were eaten in a hands free game.

Eventually we got apple bobbing – a game that has now fallen out of fashion.


The introduction of Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century saw an attempt to merge Samhain with All Saints Day.  The new celebration was called All Hallows Eve or Halloween.  Samhain refused to die and the traditions continued so in the 9th century the two festivals were separated and All Saints Day moved to the 1st November.

Christians kept the two festivals going and Halloween was associated with tricksters, mummers and feasting.  Mumming was an integral part of the celebration with groups of mummers going around the villages, acting out skits and plays.

This evolved into trick or treating, souling or guising where people dressed up and went from door to door in return for foods and gifts.

Children would be given homemade treats, apples, nuts or dried fruits in return for a song, poem, or play on the doorstep.

Meanwhile, in America, Irish and Scottish immigrants had imported guising.  Post war, sugar rationing was lifted and  modern trick or treating was born.

Halloween went commercial

Confectioners began to realise the opportunities of Halloween as a money making opportunity.  They launched nationwide advertising campaigns and people switched to buying packets of sweets to hand out instead of making their own treats.

Trick or treating arrived in the UK sometime around the 1990’s with the celebration becoming bigger year on year.

Confectionery sales now increase 20% over the 5 weeks before Halloween in the UK.


Halloween went global

Trick or treating has also spread around the world like a zombie apocalypse.  Countries which do not have a Celtic tradition – like Japan and India have adopted the practice.

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