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Halloween, or Hallowe'en, is a tradition celebrated on the night of October 31, most notably by children dressing in costumes and going door-to-door collecting sweets, fruit, and other gifts, called most commonly trick-or-treating. Some other traditional activities include costume parties, watching horror films, going to haunted houses, and traditional autumn activities such as hayrides, some of which may even be "haunted."

Halloween originated under a different name (Samhain) as a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain with mainly Irish and Scots and other immigrants transporting versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Many other Western countries have embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture in the late twentieth century.

The term Halloween, and its older rendering Hallowe'en, is shortened from All hallows evening, as it is the evening of/before "All Hallows' Day" (also known as "All Saints' Day"). The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints' Day from May 13 to November 1.

Halloween is also called Pooky Night in some parts of Ireland, presumably named after the púca, a mischievous spirit.

Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent.


The carved pumpkin, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols.

The jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish story of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard drinking old farmer who tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the trunk of the tree. In revenge, the devil places a curse on old Jack which dooms him to wander the earth at night for eternity. For centuries, this bed time parable was told by Irish parents to their children.

The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists, and a rather commercialised take on the dark and mysterious. This art generally involves death, magic, or mythical monsters. Commonly-associated Hallowe'en characters include ghosts, ghouls, witchcraft, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, haunted houses, pumpkinmen, black cats, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, werewolves, and demons. Particularly in America, symbolism is inspired by classic horror films, which contain fictional figures like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. Homes are often decorated with these symbols around Halloween.

Black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween. In modern Halloween images and products, purple, green, and red are also prominent.

The use of these colors is largely a result of advertising for the holiday that dates back for over a century. They tend to be associated with various parts of Halloween's imagery.

Color Symbolism
Black death, night, witches, black cats, bats, vampires
Orange pumpkins, jack o' lanterns, Autumn, the turning leaves, fire
Purple night, the supernatural, mysticism
Green goblins, monsters
Red blood, fire, demons, Satan

Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins and scarecrows, are also reflected in symbols of Halloween.

Popular costumes

Typical Halloween costumes have traditionally been monsters such as vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils. In recent years, it has become common for costumes to be based on themes other than traditional horror, such as dressing up as a character from a TV show or movie, or choosing a recognizable face from the public sphere, such as a politician. In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, for example, costumes of, firefighters, police officers, and United States military personnel became popular. In 2004, an estimated 2.15 million children in the United States were expected to dress up as Spider-Man, the year's most popular costume.

Growing out of trick-or-treating

A child usually "grows out of" trick-or-treating by his or her teenage years. Trick-or-treating by teenagers is accepted, but generally discouraged by those handing out candy. Teenagers and adults instead often celebrate Halloween with costume parties, bonfire parties, staying home to give out candy, listening to Halloween music, watching horror movies or scaring people.


Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree features the holiday prominently. Halloween is frequently mentioned as an important date in the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, whose central themes are wizardry and magic. In Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, several pivotal events occur on Halloween night, including the death of the original Nite-Owl. Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and the character of the Headless Horseman are often linked to the holiday in the public mind due to later adaptations (though Halloween is not actually mentioned in the original work).

Films in which Halloween plays a major role include the adaptations of the above works, plus the Halloween film series and The Nightmare Before Christmas, created by Tim Burton.

Numerous Halloween television specials have been broadcast, notably It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the annual Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes.

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