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Halloween, or also known as All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

Activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing and divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror films.




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Today’s customs are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the Celtic-speaking countries, some of which are believed to have pagan roots. Jack Santino, a folklorist, writes that “there was throughout Ireland an uneasy truce existing between customs and beliefs associated with Christianity and those associated with religions that were Irish before Christianity arrived”.

Today’s customs are also thought to have been influenced by Christian dogma and practices derived from it. It is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas) on 1 November and All Souls’ Day on 2 November, thus giving the holiday on 31 October the full name of All Hallows’ Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows’ Day).

 

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Costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, in the United States the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses.

Dressing up in costumes and going “guising” was prevalent in Ireland and Scotland by the late 19th century. Costuming became popular for parties in the US in the early 20th century, as often for adults as for children. The first mass-produced costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in the United States.

The yearly New York Halloween Parade, begun in 1974 by puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee of Greenwich Village, is the world’s largest Halloween parade and one of America’s only major nighttime parades (along with Portland’s Starlight Parade), attracting more than 60,000 costumed participants, two million spectators, and a worldwide television audience of over 100 million.

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