HALLOWEEN STORY

Halloween, Also Known As All Hallows' Eve, Can Be Traced Back About 2,000 Years To a Pre-Christian Celtic Festival Held Around Nov. 1 Called Samhain (Pronounced "Sah-Win"), Loosely Translates To "Summer's End" In Gaelic, According To The Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries.

Because Ancient Records Are Sparse And Fragmentary, The Exact Nature Of Samhain Is Not Fully Understood; But It Was An Annual Communal Meeting At The End Of The Harvest Year, a Time To Gather Resources For The Winter Months And Bring Animals Back From The Pastures. Samhain Is Also Thought To Have Been a Time Of Communing With The Dead, According To Folklorist John Santino.

Halloween Witch Costumes Provides a Safe Way To Play With The Concept Of Death, Santino Said. People Dress Up As The Living Dead, And Fake Gravestones Adorn Front Lawns — Activities That Wouldn't Be Tolerated At Other Times Of The Year, He Said.

But According To Nicholas Rogers, a History Professor At York University In Toronto And Author Of "Halloween: From Pagan Ritual To Party Night" (Oxford University Press, 2003), "There Is No Hard Evidence That Samhain Was Specifically Devoted To The Dead Or To Ancestor Worship.

"According To The Ancient Sagas, Samhain Was The Time When Tribal Peoples Paid Tribute To Their Conquerors And When The Sidh [Ancient Mounds] Might Reveal The Magnificent Palaces Of The Gods Of The Underworld," Rogers Wrote. Samhain Was Less About Death Or Evil Than About The Changing Of Seasons And Preparing For The Dormancy (And Rebirth) Of Nature As Summer Turned To Winter, He Said.

Though a Direct Connection Between Halloween And Samhain Has Never Been Proven, Many Scholars Believe That Because All Saints' Day (Or All Hallows' Mass, Celebrated On Nov. 1) And Samhain, Are So Close Together On The Calendar That They Influenced Each Other And Later Combined Into The Celebration Now Called Halloween.

The Tradition Of Dressing In Costumes And Trick-Or-Treating May Go Back To The Practice Of "Mumming" And "Guising," In Which People Would Disguise Themselves And Go Door-To-Door, Asking For Food, Santino Said. Early Costumes Were Usually Disguises, Often Woven Out Of Straw, He Said, And Sometimes People Wore Costumes To Perform In Plays Or Skits.

The Practice May Also Be Related To The Medieval Custom Of "Souling" In Britain And Ireland, When Poor People Would Knock On Doors On Hallowmas (Nov. 1), Asking For Food In Exchange For Prayers For The Dead.

By The Late 1800s, The Tradition Of Playing Tricks On Halloween Was Well Established. In The United States And Canada, The Pranks Included Tipping Over Outhouses, Opening Farmers' Gates And Egging Houses. But By The 1920s And 1930s, The Celebrations More Closely Resembled An Unruly Block Party, And The Acts Of Vandalism Got More Serious.

Some People Believe That Because Pranking Was Starting To Get Dangerous And Out Of Hand, Parents And Town Leaders Began To Encourage Dressing Up And Trick-Or-Treating As a Safe Alternative To Doing Pranks, Santino Said.

However, Halloween Was As Much a Time For Festivities And Games As It Was For Playing Tricks Or Asking For Treats. Apples Are Associated With Halloween, Both As a Treat And In The Game Of Bobbing For Apples, a Game That Since The Colonial Era In America Was Used For Fortune-Telling. Legend Has It That The First Person To Pluck An Apple From The Water-Filled Bucket Without Using His Or Her Hands Would Be The First To Marry, According To The Book "Halloween And Commemorations Of The Dead" (Chelsea House, 2009) By Roseanne Montillo.

Apples Were Also Part Of Another Form Of Marriage Prophecy. According To Legend, On Halloween (Sometimes At The Stroke Of Midnight), Young Women Would Peel An Apple Into One Continuous Strip And Throw It Over Her Shoulder. The Apple Skin Would Supposedly Land In The Shape Of The First Letter Of Her Future Husband's Name.

Another Halloween Princess Jasmine Cosplay Ritual Involved Looking In a Mirror At Midnight By Candlelight, For a Future Husband's Face Was Said To Appear. (A Scary Variation Of This Later Became The "Bloody Mary" Ritual Familiar To Many School Kids.) Like Many Such Childhood Games, It Was Likely Done In Fun, Though At Least Some People Took It Seriously.