Halloween wasn’t always the fun event it is today. The holiday began with the Celtic people, who lived in Scotland and Ireland. The Celts did have some fun and dressed up in costumes, but it was a serious day. The tradition started at least 2,000 years ago with the old festival known as Samhain (“sow-win”). It lasted from October 31 to November 1. Samhain was the end of the Celtic year. It marked the end of the light summer and the start of the dark winter.
The Celts believed that this time of year allowed for the barrier between the living and the dead to be breached. Not only could deceased family members visit, but so could other entities such as ghosts and fairies.
Bonfires were lit in fields and villages to scare off evil spirits and witches. The Celts believed that the living and the dead could mix at this time of year. Dead family members could visit, and so could other creatures such as ghosts and fairies. Food was left in fields and villages for spirits that might be wandering about.
To protect themselves from evil spirits, people wore costumes. Furs and other disguises were worn in hopes of blending in with the ghosts so that people would not be recognized as humans and kidnapped.
Present-day Halloween is a blend of ancient Irish and Scottish traditions, with some modern adaptations, and is not a religious holiday for most people. In fact, many Christians prefer not to observe Halloween at all. Those who do participate still wear costumes, but not to hide from ghosts. Carving jack-o-lanterns was also an old tradition; it evolved into the pumpkin-carving contests we enjoy today. While many of the traditions from centuries ago have survived, the seriousness and purpose behind the holiday have changed to the spooky fun we now enjoy.