Halloween in some form or another has been around for a long time. What we call Halloween originated in two other autumn festivals -- the ethnic Celtic celebration of Samhain and the Christian All Saints Day.
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The Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (Gaelic - perhaps "Summer's End") possessed multiple facets in Celtic folklore that celebrated harvest, the dead and even the Celtic new year. Samhain probably derived from an earlier pagan celebration. Following custom among early and medieval Christian churchmen, Christian leaders often placed their holidays near popular pagan celebrations to wean their converts away from the pagan festivals. Hence, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day from May 13 to Nov. 1. Although never stated in any source that Gregory's motive in the move was to counter the popular autumn festivals with pagan roots, his decision seemed to conform to previous practice.
All Saints Day, and its variants, All Hallows Mass and Hallowmas, never entirely disassociated itself in the popular imagination from the earlier association with pagan fall festivals and superstition. Much to the chagrin of church leaders of the medieval ages, popular observances preserved some of the older pagan features of the holiday, such as manifestations as autumn bonfires (from "bonefires"), maintaining links to the occult, folk magic and superstitions concerning the dead. These features were thought to be deployed most prominently on the evening before All Hallows -- therefore the modern name Halloween or "All Hallows Evening." The term itself originated in Scotland.
In addition, new customs evolved that had little direct connection to the church-sanctioned holiday of All Saints Day (or the later All Souls Day on Nov. 2). For instance, some burned candles or used lighted hollowed-out turnips ("jack-o-lanterns") to drive away the malevolent spirits of the dead on the eve of All Hallows. The custom of adults and children disguising themselves to fool these spirits and beg for food and coins on or near All Saints Day ("guising") emerged as the origin of "trick or treating." This popular custom of adults participating in guising even drew the negative comment of Shakespeare in his play "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" when the character Speed accuses his master of "puling [whining or whimpering] like a beggar at Hallowmas" (Act 2, Scene 1).
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Stephen Douglas Wilson