Commemorated on October 31, Halloween is one of the oldest holidays of the world, celebrated with immense dedication and enthusiasm in the United States and Canada. The major traditions of this ghastly and horrifying festival include making bonfires, attending costume parties, planning trick-o-treats, carving jack-o'-lanterns, and visiting haunted houses. Halloween is a blend of different customs derived from various holidays. What was earlier celebrated as October 31 gradually came to be known as All Hallow Eve, followed by All Hallow's Eve and Hallowe'en, and finally Halloween, as we celebrate today. As such, the present Halloween festival that the world commemorates includes influences from all previous festivals - Pomona Day's apples, nuts, and harvest; the Festival of Samhain's black cats, magic, evil spirits, and death; and ghosts, skeletons, and skulls from All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day. Get a complete background of Halloween by browsing through the lines below.
The origin of Halloween can be recounted from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, pronounced as sow-in. Over 2000 years back, the Celtics resided in the area, what is today called Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. Since they worshipped nature, they had several gods, who, they believed, played a vital role in commanding their work and rest times. To mark the end of the summer and harvest and beginning of the cold and darkness, the Celtics celebrated their New Year on November 1. It was on October 31 that they completed their harvest of crops and stored them for the long winter season ahead. On the same night, they celebrated Samhain as they considered the return of the dead on earth could cause trouble and damage the crops.
The Druids, or Celtic priests, regarded this occasion highly auspicious to predict the future. To celebrate the same, the Druids lit huge bonfires and offered sacrifices of crops and animals to the Celtic deities. To contribute more to the celebrations, the local people wore costumes, made from animal heads and skins, in attempts of forecasting each other's fortunes. The festival lasted for three days. At the turn of the first century, the Celtic territory was invaded by the Romans, who brought along many of their customs and traditions. As such, two of the major Roman festivals were merged with the Celtic celebration of Samhain, over the next four hundred years of reign. While the first festival was Feralia, a festival marked in late October to commemorate the passing of the dead, the second occasion was Pomona Day to honor the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. It is from this festival that the tradition of bobbing for apples came into practice on Halloween.
This wasn't sufficient to influence the New Year of the Celtics as Christianity soon spread in the Celtic lands around the 800s. It is believed that Pope Boniface IV proclaimed November 1 as All Saint's Day, a festival to honor saints and martyrs. The day was also known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and hence, the night before, the night of Samhain, came to be known as All-hallows Eve and the present day Halloween. Years later in 1000 AD, the same church declared November 2 as All Souls' Day, designated especially to honor the dead. Similar to Samhain, this day was marked with big bonfires, parades, and people dressed up as saints, angels, and devils. The three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls' were collectively known as Hallowmas. The immigration of Europeans to America led to the introduction of their traditions and customs to the people of America, one among them being Halloween.