What exactly is Halloween?
Halloween (or Hallowe'en) is observed on October 31 every year. It is not exactly a holiday as such (although in some countries it appears to be!). Halloween fun and activities and japes commonly include lots of going-on for kids - and adults alike - such as trick-or-treating, attending costume or fancy dress parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror - or at least pretty scary! - films.
Historian Nicholas Rogers, in exploring the origins of present-day Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)".
This is still the name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels and celts in the British Isles and is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end".
Origin of name 'Halloween'
The word Halloween has its origins in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller version All-Hallows-Even ("evening"), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg - translated as mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.
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