The word “Halloween” means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening”. It is believed to be of Scottish Christian origin, dating back to mid Eighteenth Century. Halloween falls on 31 October, the evening prior to the Christian All Saints Day, on 01 November.
With regard to the evil spirits, on Halloween day, barns and homes were blessed to protect people and cattle from the effect of witches, who were believed to accompany the evil spirits. In the 19th century, in parts of England, Christian families gathered on hills on the night of Halloween. One held a bunch of burning straw on a pitchfork while the rest knelt around him in a circle, praying for the souls of relatives and friends until the flames went out. The idea of Halloween as the Devil’s holiday has been propagated by the modern day Christian Evangelists. They lecture their followers that scary costumes, huge fires and talk of dead spirits are the marks of the Devil and the Satan.
Halloween came to North America with the influx of Scottish and Irish settlers by early Nineteenth Century. It was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the Twentieth Century it was being celebrated all over North America by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.
Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go out in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, “Trick or treat?” The word “trick” refers to “threat” to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no “treat” is given.
Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Nowadays costumes come in the form superheroes like Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Captain America, GI Joe, etc. On Halloween day one can see most people – students, teachers, office goers, staff at the malls and the restaurants – all wearing some costume. Some offices and business houses have a particular theme for that year and everyone is expected to dress based on the theme. It is thought that the colours, orange and black, became Halloween colors because orange is associated with harvests (Halloween marks the end of harvest) and black is associated with death.
Most homes put up Halloween decorations as what one sees in the “Dracula” movies with cobwebs, skeletons and various scary models. The most common is the “Jack-O-Lanterns” which originated in Ireland where children carved out potatoes or turnips and lighted them from the inside with candles. Its origin can be traced back to an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” who invited the Devil to have a drink with him and then didn’t want to pay for his drink. He tricked the Devil and drove him off by carving a cross on to a turnip and illuminating it with a lighted candle. In North America, pumpkins were cheaper and more readily available than turnips, thus carving them and making them in to Jack-O-Lanterns lit by a candle inside became a North American Halloween tradition.
Some associate Halloween with vampires. The percentage of North Americans who believe in the existence of vampires is at a dangerously high today. Legend has it that vampires feed on human blood, and once bitten, the victim also becomes a vampire and starts feasting on the blood of others. This supposedly accounts for an exponential increase of these widely feared creatures. The vampires are said to have come into existence from the turn of the Seventeenth Century. If one vampire would have bit a human a month, and that person and the original vampire would have bit two the next month, and so on, by the turn of the eighteenth century, the entire world population would have been bitten by a vampire.
Whether Halloween is a devil’s holiday or not, the children really have a lot of fun and enjoy the evening going for “Trick or Treat”; the adults enjoy accompanying the children and also treating them at their homes. People of all ages do have a lot of fun ‘dressing up’ in the most grotesque way and they do not ever associate the devil or Satan with what they do.