Halloween is my favorite holiday and it’s not just because it’s my birthday.  I love Halloween because it is a no-pressure holiday – you get to party without having to worry about cooking or the financial pressure of what to get everyone as presents. 

Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, is thought to be the Christian replacement for Samhain. Samhain was one of four Gaelic (my Irish ancestors included) festivals celebrating the change of seasons and the end of the harvest.  In the 9th century, Pope Gregory declared November 1 as All Saints’ Day and November 2 as All Souls’ Day in an attempt to reframe Samhain into a Christian holiday. It worked – sort of. 

During Samhain, it was believed that fairies and spirits of the dead could enter into our world easier – similar to Mexico’s tradition of the Day of the Dead – so people would wear costumes to hide from feared spirits or prevent kidnapping by the fairies.  That is where Halloween gets the tradition of wearing costumes every October 31st. They also left doors and windows open so that the spirits of their deceased family members could join them for feasts and parties!   

Trick or Treating and Jack-o-lanterns also have their roots in the Samhain festival.  In the nights leading up to it, the ancient Irish and Scottish went door to door in their costumes singing songs or reciting verses for the dead and getting small cakes as payment.  To light their way, carved turnips with coal inside and scary faces were attached to strings to sticks, later when Irish immigrants began arriving in America, they changed this custom to pumpkins because turnips were not in large supply.  There was also a tradition of putting these jack-o-lanterns in the window to ward off evil spirits.

Similar to Christmas, early Christians timed holidays around pre-existing pagan ones.  I enjoy decorating, carving pumpkins, and getting dressed up in a costume. I usually try to do a family theme like Star Wars or Star Trek.  It’s great fun to celebrate my birthday on Halloween and I see it as a great beginning to the holiday season.