Halloween is an annual holiday, celebrated each year on October 31.It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts .In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns. Around the world, as days grow shorter and nights get colder, people continue to usher in the season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.
Halloween celebrations include costume parties where people dress as witches, ghosts, and animal figures associated with Halloween, or as fictitious characters from horror films, television shows or books. Costume parties are often held at people’s homes, a hired venue, or venues that are supposedly haunted.
Many schools around the world, including international schools, celebrate Halloween by hosting costume parades and award prizes for creative costumes. Schools also provide fun classroom activities such as bobbing for apples, Halloween-themed coloring or drawing contests, and other games associated with Halloween. Students also learn about the observance’s origins and history.
Many children dress in costumes and form groups that are accompanied by adults to embark on a trick-or-treating adventure. This activity involves children knocking on doors in their local neighborhood and requesting a trick or treat. Some people give out treats while others request a trick, which often involves children presenting a small joke or trick. Many homes are decorated to fit the Halloween theme during this period. Decorations include fake cobwebs, jack-o-lanterns and images of black cats or witches.
There are many Halloween symbols. Symbols include animals, such as black cats, bats and spiders, and figures, such as ghosts, skeletons, witches and wizards. Pumpkins, graveyards, cobwebs, haunted houses and the colors green, orange, grey and black are also associated with Halloween. These symbols are used to decorate homes and party venues and are seen on costumes, gift paper, cards, cookies, cakes and candy.
ALL SAINTS DAY
On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday.
All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmessemeaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
HALLOWEEN COMES TO AMERICA
Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.
As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.
Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.