Halloween: Meaning, Date, History, Activities & Movies

July 14, 2022 8 min read

Halloween or Hallowe'en (an abbreviation of "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a worldwide holiday held on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It marks the beginning of Allhallowtide, the liturgical year dedicated to honoring the deceased, especially saints (hallows), martyrs, and all those who have died.

1. What is the Date of Halloween? 

Halloween, celebrated on October 31st, is unquestionably the creepiest and most haunting festival of them all. Children dress up as Batman, the Joker, Wonder Woman, or another favorite figure and go trick-or-treating in their communities with jack o' lanterns full of candy. Spooky decorations adorn windows and porches, and screams can be heard in living rooms around the country as we watch our favorite horror films.

2. History of Halloween

Halloween is said to have its origins in Christian beliefs and customs. Halloween is derived from "All Hallows' Eve," the evening preceding the Christian holy days of All Hallows' Day (All Saints' Day) on 1 November and All Souls' Day on 2 November. Since the period of the early Church, important Christian feasts (such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost), as well as the feast of All Hallows', have had vigils that began the night before. Allhallowtide is a three-day period during which Christians honor saints and pray for recently deceased souls who have yet to enter Heaven. Several churches held commemorations of all saints and martyrs on various days, mostly in the spring. It was celebrated on 13 May in 4th-century Roman Edessa, and on 13 May 609, Pope Boniface IV re-dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to "St Mary and all victims." This was the date of Lemuria, an ancient Roman dead feast.

The feast of All Hallows' began commemorating Christian martyrs in the Western Christian Church in the 4th century, and in the 8th century, Pope Gregory III (731-741) erected an oratory in St Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs, and confessors." According to some reports, it was dedicated on November 1, while others claim it was on Palm Sunday. By 800, churches in Ireland and Northumbria were conducting a feast commemorating all saints on November 1st]. Alcuin of Northumbria, a member of Charlemagne's court, may have established the 1 November date throughout the Frankish Empire at that time. It became the official date in the Frankish Empire in 835]. Some attribute this to Celtic influence, while others attribute it to Germanic influence, despite the fact that both Germanic and Celtic-speaking peoples remembered the deceased at the start of winter. They may have thought it was the most appropriate moment to do so because it is a period of 'death' in nature. It is also stated that the shift was done on "practical reasons that Rome in summer could not accommodate the large number of pilgrims who came to it," and maybe due to public health worries about Roman Fever, which claimed a number of lives during Rome's sweltering summers.

By the end of the 12th century, they had become obligatory holy days in Western Christianity, with rituals such as ringing church bells for souls in purgatory. It was also "traditional for criers clothed in black to parade through the streets, wailing a melancholy bell and calling on all decent Christians to remember the wretched souls." The origin of trick-or-treating has been suggested to be the Allhallowtide ritual of creating and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls. The practice extends back to at least the 15th century] and was practiced in portions of England, Wales, Flanders, Bavaria, and Austria. During Allhallowtide, groups of destitute individuals, frequently youngsters, would go door-to-door collecting soul cakes in exchange for praying for the deceased, particularly the souls of the givers' friends and relatives. This was referred to as "souling." Soul cakes were also served for the souls to devour,] or the souls' acted as their agents. Soul cakes, like the Lenten tradition of hot cross buns, were frequently imprinted with a cross, suggesting they were cooked as alms. In his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare references souling (1593). Christians would carry "lanterns fashioned of hollowed-out turnips" while souling, which could have initially represented souls of the deceased; jack-o'-lanterns were used to fend off evil spirits. During the 19th century, on All Saints' and All Souls' Day, candles were lit in homes in Ireland, Flanders, Bavaria, and Tyrol, where they were known as "soul lights'' and meant to "lead the souls back to visit their earthly homes." On All Souls' Day, candles were lit at graves in several of these locations. In Brittany, libations of milk were poured on the graves of kin, or food was left overnight on the supper table for the returning souls, a practice that was also practiced in Tyrol and portions of Italy.

During the Reformation, Protestants in Britain attacked purgatory as a "popish" belief incompatible with the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. During the Elizabethan reform, state-sanctioned rites related with the intercession of saints and prayer for souls in purgatory were banned, while All Hallow's Day remained in the English liturgical calendar to "commemorate saints as good human people." Theology of All Hallows' Eve was redefined for some Nonconformist Protestants "Souls cannot be traveling from Purgatory to Heaven, as many Catholics believe and assert. Instead, the so-called ghosts are believed to be bad spirits ". Other Protestants believed in Hades, an intermediary state (Bosom of Abraham). In some areas, Catholics and Protestants continued to perform souling, candlelight processions, or ring church bells for the deceased; the Anglican church eventually outlawed this practice. According to Mark Donnelly, a medieval archaeology professor, and historian Daniel Diehl, "barns and residences were blessed to protect humans and cattle from the effect of witches, who were thought to accompany the malevolent spirits as they wandered the land." After 1605, Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) overshadowed Hallowtide in England, appropriating some of its customs]. The discontinuation of official rites associated to the intercession of saints in England resulted in the formation of new, unauthorized Hallowtide practices. Catholic families gathered on hillsides in rural Lancashire in the 18th and 19th centuries on All Hallows' Eve. One carried a pitchfork full of burning straw while the others knelt around him, praying for the souls of family and friends until the flames went out. This was referred to as teen'lay. A comparable habit existed in Hertfordshire, as did the lighting of 'tindle' fires in Derbyshire. Some speculated that these 'tindles' were burned to "lead the wretched souls back to earth." Old Allhallowtide practices that contradicted Reformed teaching were not repressed in Scotland and Ireland because they "were crucial to the life cycle and rites of passage of local communities" and restraining them would have been difficult.

Until the 15th century, households in regions of Italy put a dinner out for the ghosts of relatives before departing for church services. On All Hallow's Day in 19th-century Italy, churches hosted "theatrical re-enactments of episodes from the lives of the saints," with "participants depicted by lifelike wax figures." In 1823, the Holy Spirit Hospital graveyard in Rome displayed a scene in which the bodies of individuals who had lately died were arranged around a wax statue of an angel pointing skyward towards heaven. "Parish priests went house-to-house, asking for tiny donations of food, which they shared among themselves throughout the night" in the same country. In Spain, special pastries known as "bones of the holy" (Spanish: Huesos de Santo) are still baked and placed on graves. During Allhallowtide, priests lead Christian processions and ceremonies in cemeteries throughout Spain, France, and Latin America, following which people observe an all-night vigil. At Allhallowtide in 19th-century San Sebastián, there was a parade to the city cemetery, which gathered beggars who "appealed" to the tender recollections of one's deceased relatives and friends for pity.

3. Halloween Activities

Hand out candy

If you're too old to go trick or treating, it's time to pay it forward! Put on a wig and a mask (but not too frightening!) Hand out tons of goodies while your audio equipment groans, howls, and rattles chains. Make some serious Halloween entertainment for the kids!

Visit a haunted house

In a haunted house, lose control for a short time. Find out who leaps the most — but remember, no matter how chaotic the scenario, it's all just for fun! (Or does it?)

Enjoy campy fun listening to the original "War of the Worlds"

Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater on the Air show aired a horrifying dramatization of H.G. Wells' classic "War of the Worlds" on October 30, 1938. There was widespread terror across the country because so many people believed the program was authentic. Invite some friends around, make some popcorn, eat some candy, and travel back in time to hear one of the great voices play on your emotions just before Halloween!

Make a DIY Halloween costume 

If you have the time, making a homemade Halloween costume with your child is a terrific way to bond while also being creative. Consider your childhood Halloween costumes: practically every one was homemade and used a black trash bag!

Carve a pumpkin

Pumpkin carving is an age-old ritual. Visit your neighborhood pumpkin patch and select a pumpkin together. Carving kits, which are far safer and easier to use than knives, are widely available in supermarkets. Look for downloadable pumpkin carving stencils online or draw your own pattern straight on it.

Do some Halloween baking

Baking is a terrific way to bond with your child and teach them a skill that they will be able to pass down to their children in the future. It's also enjoyable since you get to consume your delectable creations! If baking isn't your strong suit or you have limited kitchen space, there are various home baking kits available to help you out.

Make Halloween crafts and decorations

You'd be shocked how many everyday items can be turned into Halloween decorations. Toilet paper may be transformed into bats, and napkins can be transformed into eerie ghosts. Egg cartons can be used to construct bat decorations and orange and black paper can be used to form a Halloween themed chain. Almost all objects can benefit from googly eyes!

4. Halloween Movies

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

For many, Halloween isn't complete until the entire family gathers on the couch to watch this animated special starring the Peanuts gang. Will the Great Pumpkin make an appearance this year?

Halloween (1978)

Given that this renowned film starring Michael Myers, the unstoppable murdering machine, shares a name with the year's spookiest holiday, it's about as classic as they get. It's worth seeing only for the eerie John Carpenter score.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Mia Farrow is terrifying as the pregnant young Rosemary, who must confront the truth about the mysterious origins of the child she's carrying. It's a genuine, slow-burning horror.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

It's debatable whether this classic belongs in the Halloween or Christmas categories. In any case, Tim Burton's fantastical world is a treat. (Perhaps once a week from October to December?)

Child's Play (1988)

Consider Toy Story without, well, everything that gives it Disney's approval. Instead of Woody and Buzz, this film follows a little kid who receives a doll that develops a mind of its own. After you've finished the film series, you can watch the Chucky TV show, which aired on SYFY last year (and now streams on Peacock).

The Invisible Man (2020)

Although it is a newer addition to the horror genre, The Invisible Man has earned its position alongside classics such as the original. One of Saw's creators, Leigh Whannell, manages to write great drama while focusing on the Invisible Man's victim rather than the monster himself.

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