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Also called All Hallows Eve


All Saints' Eve


Observed by Numerous Western countries (see article)


Type Secular with roots in Christianity and paganism


Date October 31


Celebrations Varies by region but includes trick-or-treating, ghost

tours, apple bobbing, costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns


Related to Samhain, All Saints Day




Halloween (or, by semantic correctness: Hallowe’en) is a holiday

celebrated on October 31. It has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain

and the Christian holy day of All Saints. It is largely a secular

celebration, but some Christians and pagans have expressed strong

feelings about its religious overtones. Irish immigrants carried

versions of the tradition to North America during Ireland's Great Famine

of 1846. The day is often associated with the colors orange and black,

and is strongly associated with symbols such as the jack-o'-lantern.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires,

costume parties, visiting haunted attractions, carving jack-o'-lanterns,

reading scary stories, and watching horror movies.




Halloween has origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain

(Irish pronunciation; from the Old Irish samain, possibly derived from

Gaulish samonios). The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end

of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes regarded as

the "Celtic New Year".


Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient Celtic pagans

to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The

ancient Celts believed that on October 31, now known as Halloween, the

boundary between the living and the deceased dissolved, and the dead

become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or

damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into

which the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks

were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to copy the evil spirits

or placate them.


Origin of name


The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows Eve (both "even" and

"eve" are abbreviations of "evening," but "Halloween" gets its "n" from

"even") as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day", which is now also known

as All Saints' Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various

northern European pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory

IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints' Day from May 13 (which

had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures)

to November 1. In the 9th century, the Church measured the day as

starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although

All Saints' Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the

two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day.




On Hallows' eve, the ancient Celts would place a skeleton on their

window sill to represent the departed. Originating in Europe, these

lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Believing that the

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