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Halloween's beginnings take place around 500 B.C. in the area that is now Great Britain, France, Scotland, and Ireland. October 31st commemorated "Samhain," or the Celtic New Year-the day marked the end of the summer season, the end of the harvest, and the beginning of winter.

The Druids, who were the spiritual and intellectual leaders of the Celts, believed that on this day the barrier between the physical world and the spirit realm is suspended-it's the day the spirits, elves, and fairies are allowed to not only walk among the living, but also meddle in our affairs.

To appease the ghosts and monsters of the past, the Celts built large bonfires, had sacrifices of animals and food offerings, and held celebrations. The celebrations included such practices as bobbing for apples-the first to come up with an apple in their mouth would be the first to marry in the coming year. The events were also designed to welcome and honor the Moon Goddess, who is now more prominent due to the shorter days.

For hundreds of years, these pagan rituals took place until they were eventually suppressed, as the Roman Empire and then Christianity spread throughout the region. Though the rituals were suppressed, they never completely went away.

In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory started a trend in Catholicism that continued for centuries. Rather than trying to wipe out ancient customs and celebrations, he instructed his missionaries to bless them and put the Christian spin on it. For example, if a tribe worshiped a boulder, a priest would consecrate the boulder in the name of Christ and it would then be okay to "appreciate" the boulder.

This is how Halloween would eventually get its name. In 835 A.D. Pope Gregory IV moved "All Saints Day" to November 1 in an effort to put a religious spin on a pagan holiday that was not going away. This made October 31st All Hallow's Eve, Holy Evening, or the night before All Saints Day. Eventually, "All Hallow's Eve" was shortened to Hallow'een.

So what about the sweets? The practice of going door-to-door "begging" was around for many years. The poor would dress up and perform mini plays or a song in hopes of getting food, drinks, or money from each home. This practice went on throughout the year, not just Halloween.

For some of the other Halloween traditions, we need to fast-forward almost 1,000 years to the 1800s.

Some Irish folklore describes the story of a drunkard vagrant named Jack who tricked the devil up a tree and then carved a crucifix into the bark, trapping the demon. Jack made a deal with the devil that he would let him out of the tree if he promised not to tempt or torment Jack anymore. The devil agreed and they parted ways for the moment, but they were destined to meet one more time.

When Jack died, he wasn't allowed into heaven because of his bad lifestyle, and he wasn't allowed into hell because of his deal with the devil. So the devil gave Jack a glowing ember to light his way through eternal darkness. Jack placed that ember into a carved turnip so he could carry it. The Irish were known to create lanterns from turnips, potatoes, and beets throughout the year (not just at Halloween). Thus, a vegetable with a candle in it became known as a jack-o-lantern.
During the Irish potato famine of 1845-1850, many people immigrated to the United States, and they brought some of their folklore and rituals with them. In America, pumpkins were plentiful and they replaced the turnip as the jack-o-lantern of choice. One of the other practices the Irish and Scots brought over was "mischief night" on Halloween (the "trick") a night where people would sneak around playing pranks such as unhinging gates, tipping over outhouses, and other general mischief. The next day, to avoid repercussions, the pranksters claimed it was the work of ghosts, goblins, and witches.

Halloween's "treat" would come many years later. Mischief night grew not only in popularity, but in severity as well. In the late 1920s, the destruction was getting to be a problem. Add mischief night to the frustration of the oncoming "Great Depression," and disaster was brewing.

Some of the pranks that were played in the 1920s included throwing horse manure around. Other 'hellions' would let the cows out of the field where they would wander into the road, kids would also throw eggs at houses.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, local civic organizations were mobilizing to provide a safe Halloween. Children were being encouraged to go door-to-door to get a treat from each house or place of business. All of the houses participated in giving out treats on Halloween because they were afraid there would be some mischievous repercussions if they didn't. The childern didn't dress up in any costumes during those first few Halloweens, but wore old clothes. The children would get together in the street and tell each other which houses were giving out what kinds of treats. It didn't take too many years until they all took 'beggar's night' for granted.

It was this early form of "hellion extortion" that served to keep troublemakers at bay, and it also launched a phrase that has been popular ever since..."Trick or treat!"