Hallowe'en, a Scottish contraction of the term All Hallows Evening is a rather ancient tradition with both pagan and Christian roots. In the Celtic tradition it represents a fall festival called Samhain, denoting the end of "longer days" and the commencement of "darker days". It was thought that at this breakpoint in seasonal cycles the barriers between the living and spirits worlds became "thin". Lighting of bonfires and donning of masks were thought to protect one by warding off less kindly spirits.
In the Christian tradition the feasts, festivals and religious celebrations of All Saints Day, and the following All Souls Day, celebrate not only the memory of the Saints and their deeds and spiritual impact, but also a spritual communion between those who have died and are in a "state of grace" and the living who pray for intercession. The date of the celebrations originally fell in Springtime annually but during the Papacy of Gregory in the mid 8th century the date was moved to November.
Perhaps that was coincidence, but the new date for the Christian celebration fell on or about the same time as the Irish (Celtic) festival of Samhain. This was also the time of the ancient Roman fall harvest festival called Lemuria which, also coincidentally, was a time for ameliorating the troublesome spirits of the dead.
Hmmmm. Is there a connection here? Does a pattern emerge? Whatever your religious or spiritual background, it seems there is a melding of traditions here. Being a tolerant sort of person I do welcome all faiths and traditions here in our own American melting pot. It is what has made America the wonderful polyglot society of free people that we are. God - or the gods willing - we will remain just that.
In any event all these ancient traditions have come down over the last millenium or two to what we have in North America today. A truly fun and very special Holiday for kids to celebrate with unending creativity. Games, parties, costumes, crisp fall air, families out walking the neighborhoods, neighbors getting re-acquainted. Much to celebrate!
And here at home, at Idlewild Park in Ligonier PA, one of the oldest and most loved amusement parks in America, the Park pays annual homage to the Halloween season with the return of HallowBoo at Idlewild. Don't forget to bring your young children or grandchildren to this wonderful and safe celebration. This is the last weekend coming up - Open Noon till six.