Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (SAH-win).. They celebrated the day marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the darker half of the year. This was also when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned and the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages during the night. And, while they sought to welcome the spirits of family and loved ones, they recognized that not all were friendly. Places were set at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome the unknown visitor. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of crops, were left outside as gifts to pacify the evil and ensure coming years’ crops would be plentiful.
As cultures changed, Samhain was replaced by All Hallows Eve (ultimately Hallowe’en), a time dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed with prayers, bonfires, and ultimately merry-making and games. By the 16th century, the festival included mumming and disguises (to protect one’s self from evil spirits). People would go door to door reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. If the household donated food it could expect good fortune; not doing so would bring misfortune.
While Hallowe’en was recognized in colonial America, it was not overly popular until the mass Irish and Scottish immigration in the late 1700 - early 1800’s. By the 20th century, it was fully assimilated into mainstream society and celebrated by all social, racial and religious backgrounds. So, you see, there is a little bit of pagan in all of us.
I love Halloween!