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Halloween Traditions in North Carolina

Fayetteville moved trick-or-treating up a day this year. There was a lot of fuss about it on the Nextdoor app. Bug & Belle are too old to trick-or-treat, so it wasn’t a big deal to us. Though, I did understand the inclination of those upset over the city breaking with Halloween traditions. I am, after all, a traditionalist. I guess that’s why we still plan on celebrating Halloween tonight the way we always do.

Halloween traditions can be traced back to the festival of Samhain in the British Isles. The Scots-Irish brought their Celtic customs with them to the US back in the mid-19th century. Though some of those customs have changed over the years, they’re still the basis for how we celebrate in North Carolina today.

Halloween Traditions Brought To America From The British Isles


The custom of wearing costumes was first recorded in Scotland back in the 1500s, though the tradition could be much older. Believing spirits roamed amongst the living on Samhain, Scotsmen began donning animal skins and heads as a way to hide in plain sight. The scarier the costume, the better.


On the night of Samhain, the Celts of Ireland and Scotland lit bonfires on the hills. Some say they did this to scare off the spirits they believed walked among them; others say they did it to ensure the sun would return after the darkness of winter.

Apple Peel Divination

According to Irish lore, an apple peel can tell you who you will marry on Halloween. To do this, you pare an apple in one long strip and toss the peel over your shoulder. The peel reveals the first letter of your true love’s name.


The roots of Trick-or-Treating can be traced back to “souling” in England. Souling was the tradition of the poor going door to door and offering to pray for the souls of the homeowner’s dead loved ones in exchange for pastries. The practice was later adopted by children.

Apple Bobbing

Bobbing for apples can be traced back to England during the Roman invasion. Traditionally the first person to snag an apple would be the first to get married.


The Jack-O-Lantern was born out of an Irish Legend called “Stingy Jack.” According to the tale, a man named Jack tricked the Devil. Twice. When Jack died, neither God nor the Devil would claim his soul. So Jack was forced to roam the earth in the dark of night with only a burning lump of coal to light his way. Jack put the lump of coal in a carved-out turnip and roamed the night with his lantern ever since.

In Ireland and Scotland, people began carving turnips with scary faces to frighten off Stingy Jack. In England, they used beets. When these people moved to America, they found pumpkins make the perfect Jack-O-Lantern.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

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