Halloween can trace it's origins to the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which means "summer's end" and which took on October 31st. Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season, and is regarded as the Celtic New Year.
On October 31st, the ancient Celts believed that the boundary between the living and the dead dissolved, and bad spirits would return to haunt the living. To repel these evil spirits, the Celts would dress up in scary costumes or masks. The term Halloween comes from a shortened version of "All Hallow's Eve."
On All Hallow's Eve, the Celt would place a lantern carved in the shape of a skull from a large vegetable (originally a turnip or a rutabaga) in their window sill to represent the departed, the first Halloween Decorations. The Jack-o-Lantern came from an Irish folklore about Jack, a notorious drunkard and prankster who tried to trick Satan. Jack tricked Satan and was denied entry into heaven. Satan gave him a single ember to light his way through the darkness and cold. To make it last longer it was placed in a hollowed out turnip to make it glow longer. In America, pumpkins were much more readily available and easier to carve than turnips, so they were used instead.
Trick-or-treating comes from the medieval practice of souling, when the poor would go door to door on they day before All Soul's Day and ask for food in return for prayers for the dead. During the 20th century the practice morphed into children going door to door to beg for sweets and to play tricks on those who ask, (or who do not give them any treats).
Today Halloween bears little resemblance to the festivals that inspired it, but nonetheless remains a very popular holiday. So mark your calendars for October 31st, and get your Halloween costumes ready for this year's holiday!
Trick or Treat Safety
How to Decorate for Halloween
How to Carve a Pumpkin
Giving a Childrens Halloween Party
Halloween Safety Tips
Healthy Halloween Treats