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What Is Halloween?

Halloween is no longer a foreign festival. It is now the most celebrated festival all over the world. Halloween is celebrated on the evening of October 31st, which is the evening before the Christian feast of All Saint's Day.

Halloween celebrations are marked by unique and weird costumes, decorations and food. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows' Eve revolves around the theme of using "humour and ridicule to confront the power of death". Hence, the weird celebrations are on a roll.

Halloween's history dates back to the ancient religion of the Celtic tribes (circa 500 B.C.) from whom came the Britons, Scots and the Irish. Present day Britain, Scots, Welsh and Irish are all descendants from these ancient Celtic tribes.


The Celts were nature worshippers and believed in the world of spirits. They worshipped over 300 Gods. Their chief God was the sun and they celebrated two festivals revolving around the sun: Beltane, to mark the beginning of summer and Samhain or Saman to mark the start of winter.

The Celts believed that at the end of summer, Samhain (God of death) becomes powerful and overpowers the sun. On the night of October 31st Samhain summons all the evil spirits from their grave who died the previous year and allows them to visit the living and return home.

As per the legends, people would also wear masks or disguise themselves and blacken their faces to try and pass unnoticed by the spirits. This stemmed from the belief that ghosts or spirits cannot see their own reflection. Hence, if a ghost or a demon saw another creature looking horrible, they would run away in terror.

In 834 A.D., Pope Gregory III shifted the festival of All Saints Day, then celebrated on May 13 to November 1. The new day was called All Saints Day or Hallowmas. Thus, the evening before it became All Hallow's eve and later Halloween.

The Celtic concept of ghosts and witches became blended with Roman and later Christian customs. In Ireland and Britain, Halloween was also celebrated as Mischief Night when villagers were allowed to play pranks on each other. Similarly, the Roman concept of lighting hollowed out pumpkins is also followed which is believed to ward off evil spirits.

In modern times, the festival of Halloween has become a fun concept. It is especially a great festival for kids who get the opportunity to dress up like little ghosts, monsters and witches. Over the years the children have taken up the custom of dressing up in a weird manner and going from door to door to cry trick-or-treat. People would then give the children apples or buns and later candy to keep from being tricked.

Story first published: Friday, October 31, 2014, 16:39 [IST]
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