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Ah, Halloween, with its endless supply of candy, frightening haunted houses, elaborate costumes, and last, but not least, fanatical Christian martyrs and Celtic feasts.

You may be wondering what the last two entries have to do with Halloween, an evening of celebration that has allowed kids to collect mounds of unhealthy sweets and given teenagers an excuse to wreak havoc throughout neighborhoods the world over.

According to many sources, the word “Halloween” originated from the medieval English saying “All Hallows Eve” and is a combination of the Celtic New Year and All Saints’ Day, a day that began as a commemoration to martyrs who died for Christianity.

Halloween serves as the eve to both celebrations, yet many of the current Halloween customs predate Christianity, coming from Celtic practices associated with “Samhain,” which marks the beginning of winter and the Celtic New Year on Nov. 1, according to www.encyclopedia.com.

The Web site goes on to explain that witches and other evil spirits were believed to roam the earth on Halloween, to kick off the season of diminishing sunlight. People would light bonfires, make offerings of sweets and disguise themselves as the roaming spirits to escape demonic persecution.

The traditions of costumes, jack-o’-lanterns and trick-or-treating are believed to have followed the Irish, who had strong Celtic roots and immigrated to North America in the last century, according to the Eternal Word Television Network Web site.

Before converting to Catholicism, the Celts practiced a pagan religion instructed by a priest class known as Druids, who are famous for the monument Stonehenge and other astronomical calendars that can be found in their former domains, EWTN added.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil

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