All Saints Day is a universal Christian feast honoring all Christian saints – known and unknown. The feast is celebrated by the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican churches.
“Halloween,” celebrated in Canada, the United States, England, Ireland and France on the eve of the Day of All Saints, got its name from “All Hallows Eve” or the vigil of All Saints Day.
The Celtic people, who lived in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and northern France before the Christian era, believed that their god of death (Samhain) would allow the souls of the dead to return to their homes for a festal visit on this day.
People also believed that ghosts, witches, goblins, and elves came to harm the people, particularly those who had inflicted harm on them in this life. The Druid priests built a huge bonfires of sacred oak branches and offered animal and even human sacrifice to protect people from marauding evil spirits on the eve of Samhain feast.
This belief led to the ritual practice of wandering about in the dark dressed in costumes as ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons. But some historians believe that the pumpkin-carving and trick-or-treating are recent customs, reminiscent of Irish harvest festivals, brought to the United States by Catholic immigrants from Ireland and England.
Submitted by Fr. Joseph Dovari