This article is about the celebration. For other meanings, see Halloween.
- "A long, long time ago, it was a night of great power. When the days grew short, and the spirits of the dead returned to their homes to warm themselves by the fireside. All across the land, huge bonfires were lit. Oh, there was a marvelous celebration. People danced, and they played games, and they dressed up in costumes, hoping to ward off the evil spirits, especially...the boogeyman."
- ―Mrs. Blankenship to Danny Strode[src]
- "Do I need a reason? Mrs. Kupfer was right, you know. I do love a good joke, and this is the best ever, a joke on the children. But there's a better reason. You don't really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy. It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands and we'd be waiting... in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see. Between the real and the unreal. And the dead is looking in... to sit by our fires of turf. Halloween. The festival of Samhain. The last great one took place three thousand years ago and the hills ran red... with the blood of animals and children."
- ―Conal Cochran[src]
Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) and the day initiating the triduum of Hallowmas.
According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast originally influenced by western European harvest festivals, and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain. Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain (pronounced "saw-wain") and has solely Christian roots. Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling each other scary stories, and watching horror films.
The true origin of Halloween goes back about the time around the birth of Jesus, to the ancient people called the Celts who lived in what later became the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. They celebrated a very festive holiday called Samhain on November 1, which it was their New Year's Eve, marking the end of the summer, and the beginning of the winter at midnight a time of year that was often associated with human death. Their new year started the next day, but on the night before the new year, the Celts believed that this was a time when the ghosts from the dead world came out to roam the Earth, because the boundary between the worlds of the living and the spirit world had become blurred.
In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, the Celts had traditional ways to drive the dead back to the spirit world and keep them away from the living. First they put out the hearth fires in their homes so that the homes looked cold and deserted. Then the Druids built a large bonfire in the center of town to commemorate the event, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to their Celtic deities. And finally they wore costumes that looked like ghosts or other evil creatures when they left their homes at night so the ghosts would not mistake them for fellow spirits but they left their doors open so that the good spirits can join in by placing tables for the friendly ghosts.
When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter. By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit orchards and the trees. Supposedly, this is the tradition of bobbing for apples.
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 (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 through November 1. However that didn't work exactly the way he wanted because the people liked their holidays. 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 is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but 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 Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve later, the name was changed to Halloween. From the Celtic times to the Middle Ages, the Celts began to place food or drinks on their doorsteps outside their houses to keep roaming spirits at bay. If they appeased the evil spirits it can expect good luck to happen from the 'Muck Olla'.
But if they didn't leave enough food or drinks for them they might play a few tricks on them. By medieval times, the first popular All Souls' Day practice was to make "soul cakes,". On All Soul's Day November 2" also known as souling, the children went door-to-door asking for soul cakes during Samhain. For every soul cake that a child collected, they promised to pray for the soul's of the people's dead relatives. These prayers would help the people's dead relatives find their way out of Purgatory and up into Heaven, as this is the possible origin of Trick or treating.
Several centuries ago, amongst the myriad towns and villages in Ireland, there lived an Irish old man named Stingy Jack, who was nice and kind until one night he invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack did not want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which stopped the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that when Jack should die, he would not claim his soul.
The next year, Jack tricked the Devil again into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years. Many years later, Jack died, and his soul went to go knock on Heaven's door but he was not allowed to enter Heaven because Jack had been rude and selfish in all his life then Jack decided that he might as well go to Hell instead. When he got to the Gates of Hell and begged for commission into the underworld. He wasn't welcome by the devil, either because of his promise he made to Jack years earlier and because Jack tricked him several times.
Now Jack was scared because he had nowhere to go so he pleaded with the Devil to provide him with a light to help him find his way. And as a final gesture, the Devil, tossed Jack an ember straight from the fires of Hell. And from that day to this, Stingy Jack is doomed to roam the Earth between the planes of Heaven and Hell, with only an ember inside a hollowed turnip. Because he couldn't see in the dark, he hollowed out a turnip or a potato and put in a lump of coal he got from the devil earlier.
The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.” On All-hallows Eve, the Irish people began to make scary faces into turnips, gourds, potatoes, and beets, they placed them in windows to frighten Jack away from their homes which later became the tradition of carving Jack O’Lanterns”. When the people from Ireland immigrated to America during the potato famine they brought their traditions beliefs and customs with them and became today's secular holiday that everyone can enjoy and love.
Use in the Halloween franchise
The Halloween franchise has the festivity as a central theme, not only naming each installment after it, but setting them around that time of year and associating Halloween's spooky celebrations with grisly murders, usually committed by main antagonist Michael Myers. Even when not involving the Myers character (as in Halloween III: Season of the Witch), Halloween Night still plays a significant part in each film's storyline.