On October 31st, we celebrate Halloween, a combination of pagan and Christian celebrations intertwined in a fascinating way. Ghosts, witches, and fairies are believed to be very active on this day.
The word Halloween comes from All Hallow Even, the eve (night before) of All Hallows day (All Saints Day).
Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"). The festival of Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and was celebrated with feasting, bonfires, sacrifices, and homage to the dead. The ancient Celts believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead were at their weakest and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
Nowadays traditional activities on Halloween include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses" and carving jack-o-lanterns.
Part of the history of Halloween is Halloween costumes.
The wearing of costumes and roaming from door to door
demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first
few centuries of the Christian era, whe it was thought that the souls
of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons. Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises.
Trick-or-treating is one of the main traditions of Halloween. It is an activity for children on or around Halloween in which they proceed from house to house in costumes, asking for treats such as confectionery with the question, "Trick or treat?" The "trick" is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of "souling," when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).
Making a jack-o'-lantern is another Halloween tradition.
A jack-o'-lantern is a carved pumpkin with a lit candle inside.
In folklore, an old Irish folk tale tells of Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer
who uses a cross to trap the Devil. One story says that Jack tricked
the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down.
Another version of the myth says that Jack tricked the Devil into jumping into his wallet where the Devil found himself next to a cross. That cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped. In both myths, Jack only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After his death, Jack couldn’t go to Heaven as his life had been too sinful; however, the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from Hell as well. Jack had nowhere to go. So the Devil kept his promise by dooming Jack to wander the earth endlessly for a resting place with only an ember of hellfire to light his way. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.