Ghost, goblins and ghouls. Monsters and vampires. Pirates, knights, princesses, fairies, trolls. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan. Batman, Wonderwoman, Superman, Spiderman, Underdog and even Sweet Polly Purebread. They all come out of hiding on October 31 -- Halloween.
Jack-o-lanterns glow. Doorbells ring. "Trick or treat" is exclaimed. Goodies and treats are added to the treasure coffers of Halloween -- tightly clutched paper bags. Miniature versions of cartoon heroes, fairy-tale icons and nightmare apparitions move from one haunted house to the next.
Halloween seems to have originated with the Druids. The Druids believed that on the evening of Halloween evil spirits were called by a lord of the dead, Saman. To ward off these unwelcome spirits, the Druids lit great bonfires. The tradition of lighting bonfires on Halloween night survived into recent times in Scotland and Wales.
The Celts regarded Halloween as the last evening of the year. They believed the day fertile for examining the future. They also believed that the night of Halloween drew the spirits of the dead to earth.
After adding Britain to their empire the Romans added many features of their Harvest Festival, November 1, to Halloween. The Harvest Festival honored Pomona -- the goddess of fruits and trees. It is possibly from this festival, and the Druid tradition of lighting fires, that the tradition of carving and candle-lighting jack-o-lanterns began. The traditional Halloween game of bobbing-for-apples may also have had its origins in Pomona's festival.
The name "Halloween" comes from the days chronological proximity to Christian All Saint's Day, also known as Allhallows. It is on this first of November day that the feast of Hallowmas was observed. Pope Gregory IV (died 844) may have authorized the Allhallows date to intentionally subvert the pagan celebration of October 31.