There’s more to Halloween than buying overpriced cobwebs, carving a face in a pumpkin and dressing up as witches, skeletons and zombies to collect sweets from the neighbours.
The winter festival has Pagan roots that date back more than 2,000 years, with subsequent cultures from Romans and early Christians to American immigrants adding their own spooky spin on things.
Here’s our cut-out-and-creep guide to the spookiest night of the year.
A long, long time ago (at least 2,000 years): In the Pagan calendar, the start of November is called Samhain (pronounced 'sow'inn'), meaning summer’s end, and named after the Celtic lord of death. October 31, the eve of Samhain, was a time when the souls of the dead were allowed to return to their earthly homes.
43AD: The Roman conquest of Britain brings the feast of Feralia in late October, which also honours the dead.
Post-313AD: All Christian saints and martyrs start being commemorated on a common day. This solves the problem of having too many saints to give them all their own day.
609AD: All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day starts being celebrated on May 13 because the Pantheon in Rome is rededicated on this date by Pope Boniface IV, under the title St. Maria ad Martyres (St Mary and All Martyrs).
800 AD: November 1 is declared officially as All Hallows’ Day by Pope Gregory IV - historians debate whether or not it was designed to annexe the Pagan festival of Samhain. All Souls’ Day is marked on November 2.
1100s: Allhallowtide, the collective term for the three days from October 31 to November 2, becomes pretty much obligatory in Europe. Soul cakes are baked and shared, thought to be the origin of trick or treating.
1556: Around now we see the first usage of the term All Hallows’ Eve, later known as Hallows’ Even, later Hallowe’en and now Halloween.
1593: Shakespeare mentions the practice of ‘souling’, going from door to door during Allhallowtide collecting soul cakes in exchange for prayers.
1605: After the failed Gunpowder Plot of November 5, a law is passed compelling everyone to observe Guy Fawkes Night. The event grows in popularity and borrows many Halloween traditions, including lighting bonfires to guide and ward off evil spirits.
1700s: People in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands dress up in grotesque costumes to imitate malignant spirits, which also leads to playing pranks. The tradition of carving goblin faces into turnips also crops up around now.
1770s: Military surveyor Charles Vallancey records the Halloween custom of apple bobbing in his book Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis (A Collection of Irish Customs)
1780: In his poem, Halloween, Scottish poet John Mayne notes: “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!” and talks of ghosts and “Bogies”.
1785: Robert Burns writes the poem Halloween, including the lines:
“Some merry, friendly, countra-folks/ Together did convene/To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks/An' haud their Halloween/Fu' blythe that night.”
1800s: While Anglican and Catholic colonists in America recognise All Hallow’s Eve in the church calendar, the popularity of Halloween grows with the mass Irish and Scottish immigration of the 19th century.
1837: Immigrants to North America adopt the pumpkin as their favourite veg to carve, as it’s bigger and softer than a turnip.
1895: ‘Guising’ is recorded in Scotland, where children dressed in costumes go from door to door carrying lanterns made of scooped-out turnips to collect cakes, fruit and money.
Early 1900s: Halloween customs spread to England and become mainstream in America.
1919: In The Book of Hallowe’en, the first proper history of the festival, American historian Ruth Edna Kelley writes: “Americans have fostered [Halloween customs] and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas.”
1927: The earliest known use of the term ‘trick or treat’ appears in print in Canada, in the Blackie Herald: “The youthful tormentors were at the back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word ‘trick or treat’ to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.”
1930s: The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appear in shops in America, when trick or treating takes off.
1974: The annual New York Halloween Parade is established by puppeteer Ralph Lee, showing that when America adopts something, they do it with style.
1982: Stephen Spielberg’s film ET: The Extra-Terrestrial introduces British family audiences to an American Halloween, including trick-or-treating. The custom subsequently starts to take off in the UK.
2013: For Halloween, Rita Ora dresses as "Instant Gratification" in a Barbie pink, unlimited credit card costume.
2014: Retailer Brands on Sale sells a Sexy Ebola Containment suit for $59.99 – Halloween has officially gone to the dogs.