October 31st is a very important date for people in Britain and America. It’s Hallowe’en.
Hallowe’en means “All Hallows’ Eve”; that is, the night before “All Hallows”. It is a pagan festival as it comes from the Celtic times when these people invaded the British Isles and Northern France.
According to the ancient pagan calendar, the year was divided in two parts: summer and winter. Summer was from May to the end of October, and winter was from November to the end of April. The festivity Samhain celebrated the end of the year: the start of winter, which began on the evening of October 31st and continued until the next day.
On October 31st, druids, who were Celtic priests, performed religious rituals and foretell the future. The Celts believed that ghosts and witches returned on the night of October 31st. They wore frightening costumes and made big fires to send them away. The colours of Hallowe’en are orange and black. Orange meant the “harvest” and black was the colour of winter and long nights. They also believed that black cats had special powers and could feel if spirits were near, so black cats have become symbols of Hallowe’en.
With the Roman invasion in AD 43, all the festivities were adapted to Roman traditions and, Samhain became a harvest festival and the Romans honoured their goddess of fruit trees, Pomona.
Along the following centuries, the Catholic Church put Christian festivities in the place of pagan or pre-Christian ones. Therefore, in the eighth century, the Church decided to call 1 November “All Saints’ Day”. The evening of 31 October was “All Hallows’ Eve”; that is the reason for the name Halloween.