Halloween is a traditional holiday that is celebrated yearly on the night of October 31. The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening, also known as All Hallows’ Eve or Hallowe’en. Traditional activities involve bonfires, costume parties, trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, and visiting “haunted houses”. Irish and Scottish immigrants brought versions of Halloween to North America in the 19th century. Other western countries welcomed the holiday in the late 20th century including Ireland, Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom as well as of New Zealand and Australia. Halloween history is derived from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”).
The Samhain festival is the celebration of the finale of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. According to the ancient Gaels, on October 31st, the borderline between the worlds of the living and the dead overlay and the deceased would come back to life, cause chaos such as sickness or damaged crops. The festival frequently includes bonfires. The fires are believed to attract insects to the area, which attracts bats to the area too. These are additional legends of the history of Halloween.
People wear masks and costumes to mimic the evil spirits or soothe them. A popular activity for children on or around Halloween is ‘trick or treat’, in which they walk from door to door in costumes, asking for treats such as candies with the question, “Trick or treat?” The ‘trick’ is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no ‘treat’ is donated. This is one of the major traditions of Halloween. If someone lives in a neighborhood with children, he/she should prepare confectionary to purchase treats.
The history of Halloween has spreaded. The holiday becomes popular in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, etc. due to the development of American cultural influence in recent years. ‘Trick or treat’ is familiar to children in many parts of Europe and even in Saudi Arabia. In Iowa, Ohio, and Massachusetts, the night of ‘trick or treat’ is also called as Beggars Night.
Part of the Halloween history is Halloween costumes. The habit of dressing up in weird costumes and begging door to door for treats goes back to the Middle Ages and relates to Christmas wassailing. ‘Trick or treat’ is similar to the late medieval custom of “souling”, when poor would travel house to house on Hallowmas (November 1st) and obtain food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd). It initiated in Britain and Ireland while similar tradition for the souls of the dead was found in the far south of Italy. Shakespeare mentions the custom in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593) when Speed blames his master for “puling like a beggar at Hallowmas.”