The name Halloween means "hallowed, or holy evening." Halloween, which takes place on Oct. 31, is really a festival to celebrate autumn. The ancient Druids -- religious priests in ancient Gaul, Britain and Ireland -- had a great festival to celebrate autumn, which began at midnight on Oct. 31 and lasted through the next day, Nov. 1.
The Romans also had a holiday about the first of November in honor of their goddess Pomona. Nuts and apples were roasted before great bonfires. Our own Halloween seems to be a combination of the Roman and Druid festivals.
Originally, the Halloween festival was quite simple and was celebrated mostly in church. But all over Europe, people looked upon this occasion as an opportunity to have fun and excitement, to tell spooky tales, and to scare each other. So instead of being devoted to the celebration of autumn, it became a holiday devoted to the supernatural, witches and ghosts.
Some curious customs sprang up in connection with Halloween. For example, it was said that young girls who "ducked" for apples on this night could see their future husbands if they slept with the apple under their pillow. Gates, furniture, signs and the like were spirited away to make people think they were stolen by evil spirits. And, of course, no one went near a cemetery on Halloween because spirits rose up on that night!
Today we use these superstitions as a way of having fun on Halloween.
By Arkady Leokum
Universal Press Syndicate