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Who among us isn’t intrigued by the mysterious, the unexplained, and ideas that test the limits of our imagination? The one event of the year that incorporates these, and yet allows adults to somehow relive our youth with society’s blessing, is Halloween. Few know the true origins of Halloween and the many influences that have caused the evolution, as well as the misunderstanding, of the night of fun.

Halloween, which falls on October 31st, and its associations with the supernatural, derives from the Celtic Old Year’s Night, the night of all witches, when spirits were said to walk the Earth. It is one of the oldest holidays in Britain with origins going back thousands of years. The holiday we know as Halloween has had many influences from many cultures over the centuries from the Roman’s Pomona Day, to the Celtic festival of Samhain, to the Christian holidays of Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. Hundreds of years ago in what are now Great Britain and Northern France, lived the Celts. The Celts worshiped nature and had many gods, with the sun god as their favorite. It was the sun god who commanded their work and their rest times, and who made the Earth beautiful with nature and the crops grow.

The Celts commemorated their New Year on November 1st. It was celebrated every year with a festival, and marked the end of the “season of the sun” and the beginning of “the season of darkness and cold.”

By October 31st, the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter. On that day, the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet on the hilltop in the forest of sacred oaks. In the darkness the Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin. When the morning arrived, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would do two things for them: keep the homes warm and keep them free from evil spirits.

The November 1st festival was called Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The festival lasted for three days. Many people would parade in costumes made from the skins and heads of their animals. This festival became the first Halloween.

During the first century, the Romans invaded Britain. They brought with them many of their festivals and customs. One of these was the festival know as Po- mona Day, named for their goddess of fruits and gardens. It was also celebrated around the first of November. After hundreds of years of Roman rule, the customs of the Celtic’s Samhain festival and the Roman Pomona Day mixed, becoming one major autumn holiday.

The next influence came with the spread of the new Christian religion throughout Europe and Britain. In the year 835 AD, the Roman Catholic Church made November 1st a church holiday to honor all the saints. This day was called All Saints’ Day, or Hallowmas, or All Hallows. Years later, the Church made November 2nd a holy day. It was called All Souls’ Day, and honored the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and people dressing up as saints, an- gels and devils.

But the spread of Christianity did not make people forget their early customs. On the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31st, people continued to celebrate the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day. Over the years the customs from all these holidays mixed. October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow’s Eve, and then Halloween.

The Halloween we celebrate today includes all of these influences, Pomona Day’s apples, nuts, and harvest, the Festival of Samhain’s the Celts. The Celts worshiped nature and had many gods, with the sun god as their favorite. It was the sun god who commanded their work and their rest times, and who made the Earth beautiful with nature and the crops grow.

The Celts commemorated their New Year on November 1st. It was celebrated every year with a festival, and marked the end of the “season of the sun” and the beginning of “the season of darkness and cold.”

By October 31st, the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter. On that day, the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet on the hilltop in the forest of sacred oaks. In the darkness the Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin. When the morning arrived, the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who

would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would do two things for them: keep the homes warm and keep them free from evil spirits.

The November 1st festival was called Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The festival lasted for three days. Many people would parade in costumes made from the skins and heads of their animals. This festival became the first Halloween.

During the first century, the Romans invaded Britain. They brought with them many of their festivals and customs. One of these was the festival know as Po- mona Day, named for their goddess of fruits and gardens. It was also celebrated around the first of November. After hundreds of years of Roman rule, the customs of the Celtic’s Samhain festival and the Roman Pomona Day mixed, be- coming one major autumn holiday.

The next influence came with the spread of the new Christian religion throughout Europe and Britain. In the year 835 AD, the Roman Catholic Church made November 1st a church holiday to honor all the saints. This day was called All Saints’ Day, or Hallowmas, or All Hallows. Years later, the Church made November 2nd a holy day. It was called All Souls’ Day, and honored the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and people dressing up as saints, angels and devils.

But the spread of Christianity did not make people forget their early customs. On the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31st, people continued to celebrate the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day. Over the years the customs from all these holidays mixed. October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow’s Eve, and then Halloween.

The Halloween we celebrate today includes all of these influences, Pomona Day’s apples, nuts, and harvest, the Festival of Samhain’s black cats, magic, evil spirits and death, and the ghosts, skeletons and skulls from All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. It is therefore a night when there is supposed to be a gap between our world and the world of the supernatural and the dead.

As we have seen, fire has always played an important part in Halloween. Fire was very important to the Celts as it was to all early people. In the old days people lit bonfires to ward away evil spirits and in some places they used to jump over the fire to bring good luck. Now we light candles in pumpkin lanterns. To celebrate Halloween, children dress up in ghoulish costumes, carrying Halloween lanterns, which are hollowed out turnips with a ghostly face cut into one side that glow menacingly when a candle is placed inside.

More recently, in modern times, the custom of “trick or treating” has gained in popularity. Although this practice is commonly associated with the United States, it actually originated in England as “Mischief Night” when children declared one night of unpunished pranks.

Halloween was also a good time to find out about the future. Want to find out whom you will marry? One way to find out is in a game called apple-bobbing. A number of apples are floated in a bowl of water, and the player tries to catch one using only his or her teeth. When the player has caught one, the apple is peeled in one unbroken strip, and the strip is then thrown over the left shoulder. The letter the peel forms is the initial of your future husband or wife. The second way to find out a future mate is by placing two nuts (such as conkers) on a fire. Give the nuts the names of two possible mates and the one that cracks first will be the one you marry.

Today, many organizations hold fall festivals, which are not necessarily connected to Halloween except by their similar origins. Halloween is now a fun night en- joyed by old and young alike. It has become especially popular with adults, perhaps because it is a distraction from the stresses of day-to-day responsibilities. The scary costumes that were once the custom have been replaced with masks of political figures, heroes, and even inanimate objects. With the exception of Christmas, more money is spent on celebrating Halloween than any other holiday.

So, go out into the night you ghosts, goblins, firefighters, and nurses, but remember – – eat chocolate responsibly!