Here's the History Behind Orange and Black as Halloween Colors

Kelly Allen
Photo credit: Barry King - Getty Images
Photo credit: Barry King - Getty Images

From House Beautiful

Whenever you see orange and black together, it’s almost impossible to not think of Halloween. It’s borderline socially unacceptable to wear or display the two colors outside of the month of October–although, you may be able to get away with it in November. But there’s a reason why the color combo is associated with the holiday, and it stems from Halloween’s origin (you can read about that in full here).

The modern holiday grew from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which started in the 18th century. The night of October 31 marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of dark, cold winter–which was often associated with human death, according to November 1 was the Celts’ new year, and they believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred the night before it. To ward off ghosts, they lit huge bonfires and wore costumes.

Out of that came the color black to represent death and darkness. Halloween is also celebrated at night, so black is a natural fit—not to mention all of the black animals and spirits associated with the holiday: cats, bats, spiders, the Grim Reaper, and more.

Orange represents fall, or the harvest season. We see the color the most in pumpkins, and while it’s not known when exactly the first pumpkin was carved for Halloween, the concept is relatively new. To keep spirits away, the Celts carved faces into large turnips and put candles in them. That eventually translated to pumpkins, which are native to North America, in the mid-1800s and fully spread throughout the United States by the 1920s. Orange also resembles a hue of fire.

Orange and black are total opposites, which makes them the ideal representation of warmth and cold, light and darkness—key dualities in the holiday's history. The next time you carve a pumpkin or set out black decor for Halloween, remember there’s a little history behind it!

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