October 31 is Samhain(pronounced Sow-en). The word is from the old language of Britain and it means ‘summers end’. It marks the end of the old year upon the Eve of All Hallows, the Wiccan New Years day on November 1 in the norther hemisphere. Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, but the Celtic pagans made it a 3 day festival. This was a festival for magic and chaos.
This is a time when the crops are harvested for the last time. Some crops were left as an offering to nature spirits. It is the time to prepare for the upcoming winter. It is also a time to honor ancestors and the souls of the dead. If you have a loved one that has passed on, this was the time to celebrate their memory. The ritual fires and candles have long been a mark of respect. Bonfire comes from bone fire because after the feast the bones left over from the animal were burned to say thanks and ensure healthy and plentiful livestock for the new year. The ashes left over from the fire were spread over the fields for the new crops in spring. The candles and torches also served to repel unwanted evil spirits. This is where the Jack O lantern comes from. People dressed in white and this is where we get the modern ghost from. Some also dressed as the opposite sex to show androgyny. If you know my work, you know why they did this(See Lemurian Magic).
Additionally Samhain was for offering food and winter supplies to the needy and less fortunate. Extra chairs and places were set for loved ones who had passed on and ancestors to let them know they were always welcome, even if they didn’t leave on good terms. Some people saw it as if you didn’t leave a spot for them or ignored the spirits, they would seek retribution and cause bad things to happen. This is where Trick or Treat comes from.
This was considered a time when laws and space were suspended and the Thin Veil between the world of the dead and living was lifted. Communicating with loved ones and ancestors was easy at this time. It was a time to study the dark mysteries, honor the Crone goddess and look forward to the Maiden goddess.
There was no event that the Christians could eclipse the Samhain festival of All Hallows. So they made November 1 all saints day for any saint they didn’t have a day in the year for. Anything to cover up this pagan festival that they didn’t understand.