Here in the U.S.A, we celebrate Halloween (or Hallowe’en), otherwise known as “All Hallows’ Eve” and other names. It has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day.
As a child Hallowe’en was the night that I got dressed up and went out “Trick or Treating” for candy and other goodies. even the worst costume would get a haul that would keep the sugar high going for days. Ah, the memories.
The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Symbols associated with Halloween formed over time encompassing customs of medieval holy days as well as contemporary cultures. Carving the pumpkin into a “Jack-O-Lantern” originated in traditional Celtic Halloween festivals where large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows to ward off evil spirits.
As an adult, Halloween became the night that I would sit on the porch and pass out candy to the kids that came by “Trick or Treating”. I would take my old guitar amp, plug a microphone in it and turn the reverb all the way to max. A spooky recording, strobe and black light with an old white sheet finished up the effect. I sat on the porch and waited for the victim, er, kids, to approach. Still and silent, I had the candy bowl on my lap. Those brave enough to come up to get the candy would find that the ghost was alive and would kindly hold the bowl out for them to take a piece of candy … if they didn’t run screaming from the place. I’ve had adults that would not come up to my house. Can’t imagine why. 🙂
Not all of the activities are to scare the kids (or adults). There are games and food to be enjoyed as well. One common game is dunking or apple bobbing, in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. Then there are the candy apples (known as toffee apples outside North America), caramel or taffy apples are common Halloween treats made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, sometimes followed by rolling them in nuts. There are other “Ghoulish Goodies” that can be made as well.
Halloween is not celebrated in all countries and regions of the world, and among those that do, the traditions and importance of the celebration vary significantly. Celebration in the United States and Canada has had a significant impact on how the holiday is observed in other nations.