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The history of Halloween; The King’s Head’s top 5 facts

The history of Halloween; The King’s Head’s top 5 facts


The history of Halloween; The King’s Head’s top 5 facts

Halloween is one of the busiest times of the year for us at The King’s Head in Harborne, as our whole team [and their resident ghost] get involved in the annual spooky events. However, few people know where the many traditions of Halloween actually came from. The team at our popular venue have decided to take a closer look, and reveal their favourite findings about this spooky time of year.


Jo Scone, marketing manager at The King’s Head said “Our building has an impressive history, and we are very proud of that. From our resident ghost to the eerie original features that showcase an extravagant past that was almost forgotten, our building makes for a great place to celebrate Halloween. We wanted to find out more about Halloween, and its history, to get a true sense of what the festival would have meant to people all those years ago – was it all about sweets and dressing up, or does it have a darker, more haunting meaning?”


Formally known as All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween is celebrated on October 31st. It’s traditionally the time of the year of remembering the dead, however modern day celebrations involve dressing in scary costumes, apple bobbing and playing ‘trick or treat’ but where did these traditions come from? Here are The King’s Head’s top 5 favourite facts:


Halloween is believed to have largely originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Britain and Ireland was occupied by Celts until around 2,000 years ago, and their lifestyles were mainly farming and agricultural. Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter, and the festival symbolised the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead.  The Celts were said to believe that on the 31st of October, ghosts would visit the mortal world. Large bonfire were lit in every village to scare away evil spirits. The bonfires were considered sacred by the Celts.

Pumpkin carving also has quite an interesting past – It originates from the traditional ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ which itself originated from an ancient Celtic practice of bringing home an ember from the fire at the Samhain festival. Each family would take an ember from the sacred bonfire home to light their fire, carried in a hollowed-out turnip. In later years, the turnips came to be carved in memory of the dead. When the Irish immigrated to America, the turnip was traded in for a more plentiful fruit – Pumpkins.

The tradition of Apple Bobbing dates back to the Roman era, where after invading, the Roman combined their own traditions with many traditional Celtic seasonal festivals. This particular tradition is a transgression from when people used to place an apple into water or tie from a string, and unmarried people would attempt bite into it. The first person to bite into the apple would be the next person to marry, much like the ‘bouquet toss’ tradition at weddings.

It is believed that the Halloween costumes we know today have evolved from ancient traditions too. The celebrators of Samhain, the Celtic festival, wore animal skins at their bonfire celebrations and those who celebrated ‘All Saints Day’ often dressed as saints and angels. Skip forwards a few centuries, and men in Scotland would impersonate the dead on Halloween, explaining the Halloween costumes that have evolved into today’s traditions.

The tradition of ‘Trick-Or-Treating’ is believed to have originated from Medieval England, where poor people would practice ‘Souling’ – begging for sweet breads and leftovers in return for prayers for the families souls. The immigrants who took Halloween to America developed their own version of the door-to-door begging in the 1930’s.

Halloween traditions, however much Brits love to blame the Americans for bringing it to the UK, are steeped in British history. To celebrate Halloween this year, The King’s Head will be continuing our own tradition – the Halloween party on Saturday 29th of October with ghoulish cocktail offers and a competition for the best costume. We have put aside a bottle of champagne for the winner, and our spooktacular DJ’s will be playing music from 10pm.  

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