Halloween or Hallowe'en, a contraction of All-Hallows-Even ("evening"), is an annual holiday observed on October 31, and common activities include guising/trick-or-treating,attending costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
Historian Nicholas Rogers,exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of thedead called Parentalia, it’s more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain", derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning "summer's end". Samhain was the first and by far the most important of the four quarterdays in the medieval Irish and Scottish calendar and, falling on the last day of Autumn, it was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months ahead. There was also a sense thatthis was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen. To ward off these spirits, the Gaels built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires andinvoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.
The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even("evening"), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English, All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.
Developmentof artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. For instance, the carving of jack-o'-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held inpurgatory. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much...