1,000-100 B.C.: The Celts celebrate their New Year on November 1st and believe that on the night before the New Year, October 31st, the portal between the world of the living and that of the dead is opened, allowing the dead to return to earth. They call this night "Samhain." November 1st also has a macabre significance as it is the start of winter and the "season of death" during which many people would die from the scarcity of food. During Samhain, the Celts paint scary faces on gourds to scare away the returning spirits and paint their own faces as well. It is also believed that faeries dress as beggars during Samhain and go door to door asking for handouts. Those who refuse are believed to be in for some mischief from the faeries.
43 A.D.: The Romans conquer the Celts. The festival of Samhain falls on the same days as the Roman celebration of the harvest, Pomona. With the two cultures living together, the two festivals merge into one, with the theme of apples and the harvest becoming part of the annual festival of Samhain.
600 A.D.: Unable to get the people to stop their pagan celebrations on October 31st and November 1st, Pope Boniface IV designates November 1 All Saints' Day. On this day saints and martyrs are to be honored. This move does not eliminate the pagan rituals as hoped. Instead, the people simply celebrate both festivals at once.
800 A.D.: To further erase the pagan aspects of these days, Pope Gregory III rules that All Saints' day always falls on the same day as Samhain. He declares that, in celebration of the saints, young men are to go door to door begging for food for the town poor and that villagers are allowed to dress up in costume as saints.
1500s: By this time, Samhain and All Saints' day are mingled so well that they are one and the same. It has a new name as well: All Hallows' Day. The night before All Hallows' Day is called All Hallows' Evening. The villagers call it Hallow Evening, or Hallowe'en.
Oct. 31, 1517: In his effort to reform the Catholic Church, Martin Luther posts his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church as part of the Protestant Reformation. Protestants do not believe in saints. Therefore, there was no longer a need for All Hallows' Day or Hallowe'en. The Celts, not wanting to give it up, move it to November 5th and call it Guy Fawkes Day. They celebrate with their traditional bonfires and the children go begging for money as usual.
1600s: The New England Puritans ban Halloween, Christmas, and Easter because they consider them to be Catholic in origin. For the next 250 years, it is only Catholics and Episcopalians who celebrate Halloween in America. This constitutes a very small portion of the population.
1840s: The sudden influx of Irish Catholics to America during the Irish Potato famine brings with it the Irish Halloween traditions. This includes making jack o'lanterns out of turnips. The Irish discover an abundance of pumpkins in the New World and decide to use them instead of turnips.
1860s: Wanting to officially sanction Halloween, members of both the Catholic and Episcopalian churches campaign to put the holiday on the official calendar.
1870: From this period onward, Halloween begins to gain a real foothold in American society. The idea of "tricking" also becomes popular as young people began using the date to get up to all kinds of mayhem and mischief.
On Halloween 1899, the Mankato Free Press says the boys and girls were reported out on the streets making a lot of noise with horns and tin pans. They moved everything they could find to a different spot and removed street signs.
Nov. 1, 1900: A Minnesota newspaper reports on the Halloween mischief of the night before: "Scores of young people were out, participating in the merry-making, and gates were unhinged, culvert covers pulled up, and carriages run off. A hay rack was found at the corner of Front and Washington streets this morning. A lot of wood in the hay market was tipped over. Steps were taken off houses, loose articles took wings, and in one or two places wire was stretched across the sidewalk to stop or trip the unwary. Not much damage was done."
1912: The Dennison Manufacturing Co. of Framingham, Massachusetts begins publishing Halloween "Bogie" books. The books included party ideas, costume patterns, and decoration ideas.
Oct. 31 1918: Because of the Spanish Flu Pandemic that grips the nation, most Halloween celebrations are cancelled due to quarantines. One Illinois paper reports: "The ghost parties, masquerades and dances which have always been so popular at this time of the year, are as scarce as the corn and eggs, not because of Mr. Hoover, but because of Mr. Influenza. Many parties which have been planned for Friday and Saturday night have been postponed as the quarantine will not be lifted before next Monday. But not all of the Halloween spirit has been killed by the influenza. Crowds of boys and girls have been using ticktacks on the windows, tearing down gates and and beating the porches with planks , for the last three nights, and they are all prepared to be out tonight, so be not surprised if you hear mysterious noise tonight."
1921: Anoka, Minnesota is the first American city to officially sanction a citywide Halloween celebration and encourage less mean-spirited Halloween pranks than have been the norm in previous years.
1923: New York begins citywide Halloween celebrations.
1924: Anaheim, California holds its first Halloween parade.
1925: Los Angeles begins citywide Halloween celebrations.
1929: Champaign, Illinois holds its first Halloween Mardi Gras featuring a parade, confetti jubiliee, and a street dance.
1973: The first Village Halloween Parade happens in Greenwich Village, New York.
Oct. 2004: The Payullup, Washington school district bans Halloween from schools. One reason stated is that they are afraid of offending local Wiccans. A school spokeswoman says, "Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion and so we want to be respectful of that."