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The Origin of Halloween

The word Halloween is derived from the term "All Hallows Eve" which occurred on Oct. 31st, the end of summer in Northwestern Europe.
"All Saints Day," or "All Hallows Day" was the next Day, Nov. 1st. Therefore, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day.

     Apparently, the origins of Halloween can be traced back to ancient
Ireland and Scotland around the time of Christ.

On Oct. 31st, the Celts celebrated the end of summer.  This was important because it was when animal herders would move their animals into barns and pens and prepare to ride out the winter.  This was also the time of the crop harvests.  This annual change of season and lifestyle was marked by a festival called Samhain, which means 'end of summer.'

     There was much superstition associated with this time of change, including the belief in fairies, and that the spirits of the dead wandered around looking for bodies to inhabit.  Since the living did not want to be possessed by spirits, they dressed up in costumes and paraded around the streets making loud noises to confuse and frighten the spirits away.  Thus, the customs associated with Halloween included representations of ghosts and human skeletons, symbols of the dead and of the devil and other evil creatures,
such as witches were said to be. 

The church maintained that the Gods and Goddesses and other spiritual beings of traditional religions were diabolical deceptions.  That the spiritual forces that people had experienced were real, but they were manifestations
of the Devil, the Prince of Liars, who misled people toward the worship of false idols. 

Bats, owls and other nocturnal animals, also popular symbols of Halloween, were originally feared because people believed that these creatures could communicate with the spirits of the dead.

Black cats have religious origins as well.  Black cats were considered to be reincarnated beings with the ability to divine the future.  During the Middle Ages it was believed that witches could turn themselves into black cats.
Thus, when such a cat was seen, it was considered to be a witch in disguise.

Witches and witchcraft are dominant themes of the holiday.  Witches generally believe themselves to be followers of an ancient religion, which goes back far beyond Christianity, and which is properly called 'Wicca'.  Witches are really just one side of a modern revival of paganism, the following of pre-Christian nature religions, and the attempt to return to worshiping ancient Norse, Greek or Celtic Gods and Goddesses.

To witches, Halloween is a festival of the dead, and represents the "end and the beginning of the Witches Year.  It marks the beginning of the death and destruction associated with winter.  At this time the power of the underworld is unleashed, and spirits are supposedly freed to roam about the earth;
it is considered the best time to contact spirits".

The first lighted fruit was really carved out of gourds and turnips. European custom also included carving scary faces into the gourds and placing embers inside to light them.  This was believed to ward of evil spirits, especially spirits who roamed the streets and countryside during All Hallows Eve.  It was said that if a demon or such were to encounter something as fiendish looking as themselves, that they'd run away in terror, thus sparing the houses dwellers from the ravages of dark entities.  They would have been carried around the village boundaries or left outside the home to burn through the night.

The American tradition of "trick-or-treat" probably dates back to the early
'All Souls' Day parades in England.  During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the families dead relatives. 
The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. 
The practice, which was referred to as "going a souling", was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots.  Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time.  Food supplies often ran low, and for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry.  On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes.  To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark, so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.  On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Halloween has become one of the most widely celebrated festivals on the contemporary American calendar, and it is not even officially a holiday. 
No day off is given for Halloween, no federal decree is proclaimed establishing it as a National Holiday.
People just celebrate it!