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Halloween is one of the oldest holidays with origins going back thousands of years. The holiday has had many influences from many cultures over the centuries. From the Roman's Pomona Day, to the Celtic festival of Samhain, to the Christian holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days.
Hundreds of years ago in what is now Great Britain and Northern France, lived the Celts, who worshipped nature and had many gods, with the sun god as their favorite. They celebrated their New Year on November 1st which was made every year with a festival and marked the end of the "season of the sun" and the beginning of "the season of darkness and cold."
On October 31st after the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished . The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). They would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin.
When the morning arrived the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits.
The November 1st festival was called Samhain (pronounced "sow-en"). The festival would last for 3 days. Many people would parade in costumes made from the skins and heads of their animals. This festival would become the first Halloween.
The Celtics would carry a lantern when they walked on the eve of October 31. These lanterns were carved out of big turnips and the lights were believed to keep the evil spirits away. Children would carve faces in the turnips. These carved turnips were called "jack-o-lanterns.
It is said that the "jack-o-lantern" got its name from a stingy and mean old man, named Jack, who when he died was too mean to get into heaven. When Jack went to hell he was meet by the Devil who gave him a piece of burning coal and sent him away. Jack placed the burning coal in a turnip to use as a lantern to light his way. The legends claim that Jack is still walking with the lantern looking for a place to stay.
When the early settlers came to America they found the big round orange pumpkin. Being larger and much more colorful than turnips, the pumpkin made great "jack-o-lanterns". Eventually the pumpkin would replace the turnip. Eventually the Pumpkin would become the most widely recognized symbol of the Halloween holiday.
The history of "Trick'O'Treating" can be traced back to the early celebrations of All Soul's Day in Britain. The poor would go begging and the housewives would give them special treats called "soulcakes". This was called "going a-souling", and the "soulers" would promise to say a prayer for the dead.
Over time the custom changed and the town's children became the beggars. As they went from house to house they would be given apples, buns, and money. During the Pioneer days of the American West, the housewives would give the children candy to keep from being tricked. The children would shout "Trick or Treat!".