Halloween, also known as Hallowe’en, Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is an annual celebration observed in several countries on October 31st. This day marks the eve of All Hallows’ Day, a Western Christian feast, and initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide – a period in the liturgical calendar dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all departed believers.
The traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve is to employ humor and ridicule to confront the concept of death. Many scholars suggest that Halloween is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, possibly with pagan roots, especially the Gaelic Samhain. Others, however, maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has purely Christian roots.
Typical Halloween festivities include trick-or-treating (or the related “guising”), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films. In many areas, Christian religious observances like attending church services and lighting candles on graves remain popular.
Due to Western Christian traditions encouraging (but no longer requiring) abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, the tradition of consuming certain vegetarian foods such as apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes, and soul cakes developed. However, in some locations, the more solemn customs have been overtaken by a more commercialized and secularized celebration. Regardless of its roots and variations, Halloween continues to be a highly anticipated event filled with fun, frights, and festivities.