Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1 which has also been regarded as the all saints day.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
Some of the fun and games that has been created to mark the day includes:
Halloween Costume Party: This involves costumes which are worn on or around Halloween. it could be costumes of popular celebrities that are dead or scary costumes. This also includes wearing of masks, wigs and dresses.
Trick and Treats: Trick-or-treating is a Halloween custom for children in many countries. Children in costumes travel from house-to-house, asking for treats with the phrase “Trick or treat”. The “treat” is usually some form of candy, although, in some cultures, money is used instead. The “trick” is a usually idle threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating usually occurs on the evening of October 31.
Jack-O-Lantern: In a jack-o’-lantern, the top of the pumpkin or turnip is cut off to form a lid, the inside flesh is scooped out, and an image — usually a monstrous or comical face – is carved out of the rind to expose the hollow interior. To create the lantern effect, a light source is placed within before the lid is closed.
Apple bobbing: for example, became popular as a fortune-telling game on All Hallows’ Eve: Apples would be selected to represent all of a woman’s suitors, and the guy—er, apple—she ended up biting into would supposedly represent her future husband.
Mirror Gazing: Another popular All Hallows’ Eve ritual was mirror-gazing, as people hoped to catch a vision of their future by looking into the mirror.
There are also reports of fortune-cookie-like favors being given out during earlier times. People wrote messages on pieces of paper in milk, and the notes were then folded and placed into walnut shells. The shells would then be heated over a fire, causing the milk to brown just enough for the message to mystically appear on the paper for the recipient. Others include lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
This has however moved to Africa as people are seen observing Halloween parties in some parts of Africa including South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. It is believed that the popular actress Juliet Ibrahim introduced this to Ghana when she organised an Halloween party for celebrities.