It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain (in old Irish means “end of summer”); and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church. Halloween is a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”.
According to the Celtic beliefs, this night was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned. The ancestors could come to visit their descendants. But this also meant the spirits or fairies, could more easily come into our world and were particularly active as well. It may have originally been a tradition whereby people impersonated the souls of the dead, and received offerings on their behalf. Impersonating these beings, or wearing a disguise, was also believed to protect oneself from them. In some places, torches lit from the bonfire were carried around homes and fields for protection. This tradition gave life to the Jack O’Lantern later on.
Today’s Halloween customs had some changes. In competition with “scary costumes”, some wear some disguises like superheroes, fairy tale or movie characters. And the offerings for the spirits are now going to youth. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, “Trick or treat?” The word “trick” implies a “threat” to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given.
When I was young I really appreciated this holiday. My everyday style was really gothic, with all my black make up, contact lenses and a gloomy look. So this day was the only one when people didn’t look at me strangely. Now I go to the costumed parties very often, so for me Halloween is a day of the “scary costumes”: ghosts, vampires, zombies and witches.