Hallowe’en is a big festival in the United States, but its origin is from the ancient Celtic people of Britain and northern France.
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More than 2,000 years ago the Celtic people celebrated Samhain on October 31st. At that time this was the last day of the year and the Celtic people believed that the spirits of the dead could visit their house on this day. But evil spirits, often appearing as animals (especially cats), could also visit. To frighten the evil spirits people dressed in scary costumes and carried lanterns made from turnips which were painted with scary faces.
Over the centuries the Christian religion spread through Europe and, in the year 835, November 1st was made an important Christian holy day (holiday) to honour all the Christian saints. This day was (and still is) called All Saints Day, or All Hallows (to hallow means to make holy).
On the day before All Hallows people continued to celebrate Samhain, which gradually changed its name to the ‘Evening before Hallows’ to ‘Hallows’ Eve’ to ‘Hallowe’en’.
In the United States the first big Hallowe’en festival was in 1921. The idea of Trick or Treat was started in the US, as did the use of pumpkins for lanterns instead of turnips.
These days Hallowe’en is a fun-day for many people, but there are some who still follow the traditions of Samhain.
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