It's that sinister time of year again: the time of mutilated pumpkins, grotesque masks, zombies, ghoulies, ghosties and creeping Americanisms. Terrifying.

In the beginning

The origins of the celebration are debated but there is some consensus that it emerged largely from Celtic festivals and folk traditions. It is most often associated with the Celtic festival Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the transition to the darker times of winter. Samhain was recognised in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, with related festivals taking place in other Celtic lands such as Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.

From the 8th or 9th century, the Christian church has celebrated All Saints’ Day on 1st November and, from the 11th century, All Souls Day on 2nd November. This proximity, along with the tendency of Christianity to supplant existing pagan festivals, supports theories that elements of both Samhain and the two Christian celebrations went into the mix that eventually gave us Halloween.

Halloween didn't really take off in the USA until waves of Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived in the 19th century. America has since made up for lost time by embracing Halloween with a brash enthusiasm unequalled elsewhere in the world and many of the old Halloween traditions that arrived with the immigrants have undergone Americanisation and then been re-exported across the world.

Out with the old and in with the rebranded

The English practice of 'souling' and the Irish and Scottish practice of 'guising' have been transformed into the 'Trick or Treat' we all know and… well, know. Both souling and guising involved door-to-door solicitation for food, treats or money and records show that those traditions made the journey across the Atlantic. Trick or Treat evolved from the imported versions and the new name seems to have been quite widely adopted in the USA and Canada by the 1930s. Subsequently, of course, the American version has made its way back across the ocean to largely replace its antecedents.

Similarly, the carving of pumpkins, now common in Europe, is an American variation on an older theme. In earlier times in Scotland and Ireland, turnips were often carved into lanterns at Halloween but the pumpkin, with its softer inside, is a far easier whittle. In that case, at least, there is a practical reason for the change.

Enough with the history lesson..

At Regtransfers we love Halloween. In fact, we even produced a big-budget movie on the theme, with dazzling special effects and a cast of thousands*. Readers of our blog may view this epic work completely free of charge. How it never won an Oscar is one of the great mysteries of our time.

But that artistic injustice hasn't lessened our enjoyment of our creepiest celebration and every year, in response to overwhelming public demand*, we present a selection of Halloween themed plates to send shivers down your spine. These great numbers should raise a smile or a groan at any time of year!

*A degree of recreational exaggeration may be present in some claims.

  • If this list wasn't spooky enough for you, you can find our entire collection of Halloween-themed plates here.