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How did Halloween start?

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Trick or treat! Halloween is a billion-dollar business. People spend a skele-ton of money on creepy costumes, spooky decorations and, of course, oodles and boo-dles of candy. It's no shocker that Halloween is the favourite holiday of many kids... and adults, too!

The fun frightfest we love celebrating today has roots thousands of years old. Halloween's origins can be found among the ancient Celts, who lived in what is now Britain, Ireland and many parts of Europe. The festival of Samhain was one of the most important dates in the Celtic religion. It marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark half of the year.

During this time, the walls between the worlds of the living and the dead are said to become thin and weak. Ghosts could come through, along with all manner of creatures that go bump in the night. (Meet some of them in our After School Club... if you dare!) People lighted bonfires to drive away evil spirits and carved lanterns from turnips. They wore masks and other disguises to fool supernatural beings.

The Romans brought different customs when they invaded. This included their own festivals celebrating the harvest season and honouring the dead. Merging religious holidays: a convenient way to try and convert people to your way of thinking! The Catholic Church did this centuries later by making November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows' Day. So the night before was called All Hallows' Eve. And that eventually became Hallowe'en or Halloween.

When people immigrated to North America, they brought their Halloween customs with them. Over time, celebrations became mainly secular, meaning non-religious. But many of those old beliefs and traditions are still around. So we carve jack-o'-lanterns and put on costumes... and shiver at sudden breezes and gathering shadows.

What was that sound? Probably just the wind whispering. What do you mean, clanking chains? We'll go check, you stay here with these books...

More spooky wonders:
Are ghosts real?
Are mummies real?

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