History of Halloween
The Ghost is a common symbol of Halloween.
What is Halloween?
November 1 was known as "All Hallows" and therefore October 31st was "All Hallows' Eve" - shortened to Halloween. In the 19th Century the Christian Church changed the name and meaning of this holiday and November 1st became All Saints Day or a day to honor the saints and martyrs. This is believed to be a replacement for the Samhain ceremony, still focusing on the dead, but being a more socially acceptable observance. This new celebration was called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, which in Middle English means All Saints' Day. Still regarding the celebration on the 31st, that eve became known as All-Hallows Eve, eventually coming to what we know it as today. And so became the widely celebrated holiday of Halloween.
Another way of spelling it is Hallowe'en.
History of Halloween
The history of Halloween dates back as far as two-thousand years with the Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in). It was a joyful harvest celebration that also symbolized the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one, and commemorating the dead. November 1st was considered the beginning of the long, dark, cold months to come.
It was believed that there was a strong association between the worlds of the living and of the dead for the remainder of the year. To the Celtic people, the boundaries between these two significant worlds became unclear, and on the day of October 31st the ghosts of the dead assembled back on earth. These spirits had powerful influence on predictions about the upcoming dark winter.
For this elaborate celebration, the Celts dressed in costume, usually animal heads and skins. They built bonfires and spent the night attempting to tell fortunes, damaging crops, and causing trouble. This ceremony continued long into the night, and as the festival was ending, a special sacrificial fire would be lit. This fire symbolized asking to be led safely into the coming season.
In the 19th century, the witch (from Saxon wicca, meaning the wise one) became the symbol of Halloween. Her companion, the black cat, encouraged fertility for a new harvest year.
Story of the Jack-o'-Lantern
According a to an old Irish myth, when Stingy Jack drank with the devil, he made it promise not to take his soul. Two years later, Stingy Jack showed up at the Gates of Hell and was sent away. To help him see in the dark, the devil gave him a glowing coal for light. Jack put it inside a turnip and is said to roam the earth with this Jack-o'-Lantern ever since.
The term jack-o'-lantern  originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern, with the earliest known use in the mid-17th century.
The Colors of Halloween - Orange and black are Halloween colors, because orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death. 
Carving the Jack-o-Lantern - Traditionally a fresh pumpkin is used for carving. The design is usually of a face, with simple shapes for the eyes, nose and mouth. A recent trend has been to paint the face on the pumpkin. This is safer for children and a lot less messy for the grownups.
A new style of extreme pumpkin carving has developed over the last several years of elaborate carvings, such as words or portraits. These innovations occurred because of newly developed tools. Examples of this new style of elaborate pumpkin carving can be found at Extreme Pumpkins.
English children make "punkies" out of large beets, which they carry while singing the "Punkie Night Song".
Trick or Treat - Going door-to-door for treats is similar to a much older practice, "souling," in which the poor would go from house to house begging for alms or food.
Halloween Party Decor - The Haunted House is a popular theme for Halloween Party Decorations. Much of what we use today is from the Victorian or Gothic era. Alien spacecraft is a fun design. For a more neutral Fall theme, an old barn is a great idea.
Halloween Party Games - Many of the games played at Halloween parties are Fall Festival related, such as Bobbing For Apples, Cake Walk, Pass the Pumpkin, and Pumpkin Bowling. Other fun games are Scavenger Hunt, Mummy Wrap, Guess Who (You Are), Costume/Talent Contest, Old Costume Relay Race, and Guess the Movie Scene.
Murder Mystery Games are a very popular new game that can have different themes.
|Other Halloween or Fall Traditions|
Gifts For Halloween
Costumes - When it comes to dressing up, you can be as creative as you like. Classic Monsters like The Mummy, Dracula and Frankenstein are good, as well as new horror icons like Leather Face, Pin Head, and Scary Movie Guy. Children can be lions, dinosaurs, pirates, or any miniature version of the adult monster. Goth is a very popular fashion style at Halloween while gross gag gifts and gifts on the scary side are popular.
Candy Carriers - No more carrying those Halloween goodies in a pillow case, or that plastic pumpkin that was never big enough to haul all of your treats. Whatever you call it, candy bag, loot bag or treat bag; let your little ghouls and goblins carry their candy in style, with a festive, reusable candy bag.
Fund Raising - A popular tradition in America, trick or treating for UNICEF began in 1950, when Philadelphia youngsters decorated milk cartons and collected money to help less fortunate children. UNICEF increases public awareness and raises funds to provide health care, nutrition, immunizations and clean water, around the world.
Halloween Themed T-Shirts - Very popular with teenagers, a Halloween themed t-shirt can be the only costume item they wear. One Halloween gift custom is to give someone the t-shirt from the latest scary horror movie. Some shirts have built-in lights or glow-in-the-dark messages.
- Tips for Planning a Halloween Party
- International Halloween Traditions
- Ways to Celebrate Halloween
- Mischief Night
- Halloween Luminary
- October Holidays
- Gag Gifts