What is Halloween?

Halloween (also known as Hallowe’en) is a secular holiday celebrated on the 31st of October with tenuous links to Christianity and Paganism.

Halloween history

No one is entirely sure of when Halloween was originally celebrated, but Halloween itself actually takes place on the eve of the festival of Samhain, celebrated by Celtics; and All Saints’ Day, celebrated by Christians.

The word ‘Halloween’ comes from the words All Hallows’ Even; meaning the night before All Hallows Day, which is the eve of All Saints Day.

On All Hallows’ eve, Celts would pay homage to dead kin by placing a skeleton by their windows. These were the first ‘lanterns’. Celts believed the head contained the spirit, and was hence the body’s most important part. Celts then began to use the head of vegetables to ward off evil spirits and superstitions.

A festival celebrated by Celts to remember their departed has become commercialised as a way of making money. Imagery of Halloween has turned more to evil, Hollywood horror films and the dead, rather than remembering those who have deceased.

Halloween today

Halloween today is a night where trick or treaters take to the street in orange and black, with Halloween costumes and pumpkins carved into Jack-o-Lanterns. It is a customary celebration for children to knock door to door asking for treats – most often chocolates, crisps and snacks. Alternatively, a person may ask for a trick – which doesn’t often happen!

Halloween parties also take place across the UK and Europe, with Halloween party goers donning costumes, ghost outfits, apple bobbing and carving lanterns from pumpkins.

Halloween facts

Halloween is known by a variety of names, including:

  • Records suggest Halloween has been acknowledged for over 2,000 years.
  • All Hallows Eve
  • Samhain (Celtic)
  • Hallowe’en
  • 99% of pumpkins are sold at Halloween.
  • Orange and black are the colours associated with Halloween.