The origins of Halloween, also known as All Souls´Night, lie in the Celtic festival of Samhain, (a Gaelic word meaning summer´s end) which marked the end of summer and the harvest. Bonfires were lit, often to provide light for those bringing in livestock from the fields or mountains to be slaughtered for winter. On this day, the Celts believed that the door to the underworld was opened, letting in spirits. They would hold a feast, setting a place for any deceased relatives, as they were believed to visit home on this day. Malevolent spirits entered the earthly realm as well and people would dress in costume in order to confuse these spirits. This evolved into the custom of visiting houses to collect food for the feast while in costume, a precursor to trick-or-treating.
I don´t know exactly when Halloween became sanitized, commercialized and family friendly but a poem written by the American Edith Wharton in 1903 seems to indicate that it still retained its most sinister connotations around that time. Read the first verse and judge for yourself.
A thin moon faints in the sky o’erhead,
And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead.
Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways,
Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays,
But forth of the gate and down the road,
Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode.
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.
I wonder if she had something like this in mind.
By the way, if you´re a beginner and would like to know how relatively easy it was to create the above collage, watch this space and I´ll show you....