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What is Halloween? The meaning and history behind 31st October

·2-min read

We hope you've got your pumpkins carved and costumes at the ready because the spookiest night of the year is nearly here.

Halloween is a time when all the ghouls and ghosts around the world come out to play for the day.

The festival has become a byword for plastic decorations, costumes, picking pumpkins and partying - but where did the day come from?

Halloween's origins are somewhat rather more ancient and mysterious than that, with the festival itself dating back perhaps thousands of years.

So why do we celebrate Halloween and what does it mean? Here's the lowdown.

What day does Halloween 2021 fall on?

Traditionally known as All Hallows’ Evening, Halloween 2021 falls on Sunday, October 31.

It is always held on the eve of the Christian festival of All Saints' Day on November 1, and marks the start of the three-day observance of Allhallowtide which ends with All Souls' Day on November 2.

What is Halloween and where did it come from?

European in origin, Halloween dates back to the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, which was a day held to honour the end of the harvest season and means "summer's end".

It is thought the Pagan Samhain was Christianised into Halloween by the early church, and modern day customs have their roots in early folklore, Pagan beliefs and early Christianity.

The word Halloween itself is a Scottish term for All Hallows Eve - basically, the evening before All Saints' Day.

Historically Gaels thought the walls between the spiritual realm and our world were thin. In order to protect their crops, they would set up places at their dinner tables for good spirits and light bonfires to scare off evil spirits.

Trick or treating and dressing up came from 16th century Ireland, Scotland and Wales. People would ask for food in exchange for a poem or song. People dressed up in scary costumes and impersonated the souls of the dead to protect themselves.

Why do we celebrate Halloween in the UK?

Halloween became commercialised over time from the influences of pop culture and is celebrated by both children and adults, whether they are going to parties or carving pumpkins.

Trick or treating was coined by the Americans, who evolved the British tradition of “souling” or “guising” to the main event for children as we know it today.

What Halloween events are going on?

As the only day of the year where we have a real excuse to go all out with the fancy dress, lots of people will be heading out trick or treating and to Halloween parties.

There's a whole host of club nights and Halloween events happening in London.

If you want to stay out of the eerie events, but still get into the spooky spirit, here's our list of the best Halloween horror films of all time.

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