A festival is a party to celebrate the end or beginning of something the people of a culture think is important.
In America, many of our holiday festivals are a blend from older celebrations in other countries, just like our people are a blend of people who arrive here from other countries.
Halloween is such a holiday.
A long time ago around the year 500, in what is now the country of Ireland, they had a festival to celebrate the “Summer’s End.”
Around the year 150, the people of Rome, Italy held festivals to honor their goddess “Pomona,” who was believed to have the power to bring them healthy crops of fruit and seeds to harvest.
A number of cultures recognize a Festival of the Dead to honor their deceased (a fancy word for members of their community who died). This Festival of the Dead usually occurs after a big harvest of food (anytime from August to November). Such celebrations can last up to 3 days and include lots of food and drink.
Some Christian religions have an “All Soul’s Day” or “Feast of All Souls,” which honors deceased people who were faithful to their religion during their lives.
The word Halloween itself comes from “All-Hallows-Evening.” Hallow means to honor something by saying it is holy or sacred. Halloween is a way of remembering and honoring the dead.
Each of the things you see on Halloween – like carved pumpkins called Jack-o’-lanterns – have some meaning.
The Jack-o’-lanterns were supposed to be a way of remembering dead souls who were in trouble.
People in Europe (mainly children and the poor) used to go door-to-door, singing and saying prayers for the dead. This was called “Souling.” They were fed cake. Now we go door-to-door on Halloween for “Trick or Treating” to get candy.
“Trick or Treating” means that you are threatening to play a trick or joke on the homeowners or their house if they don’t give you a treat. One of the jokes that has been played is wrapping someone’s trees with toilet paper to leave the homeowner with a huge mess to clean up – especially if the water sprinklers go off early the next morning.
American prosperity was created by people building businesses and making money from them.
Halloween has become big business.
Each year, American candy makers sell more candy during Halloween than any other time of year except Christmas. We also see children in costumes bought from stores, walking from house to house to ask for treats, such as candy or money.
Some homeowners just leave candy out in a bowl on their porch. But since at least the late 1950’s in North America, people who want to participate in Halloween often decorate their house with store-bought replicas of skeletons, spider webs and witches, candles or special lights, and pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns.
What we now see as Halloween in America is a blend from past festivals of many cultures and religions, centered around a celebration of food and the honoring of the dead.