Halloween has origins in the ancient Gaelic festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in or sau-an), which is dervied from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”.A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced kalan-geyf). The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes.

It could be seen as a festival of the dead. The ancient Gaels believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces.

Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.[citation needed] Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

Another common practise was divination, which often involved the use of food and drink.

Origin of name

The term Halloween, originally spelled Hallowe’en, is shortened from All Hallows’ Evene’en is a shortening of even, which is a shortening of evening. This is ultimately dervied from the Old English Eallra H?lgena ?fen. It is now known as All Saints’ Day.

A time of pagan festivities, Popes Gregory III (731–741) and Gregory IV (827–844) tried to supplant it with the Christian holiday (All Saints’ Day) by moving it from May 13 to November 1.

In the 800s, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints’ Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were once celebrated on the same day.