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History of Halloween? It's not so ghoulish

October 31, 2011 | 10:53 am

Halloween history quiz: Is Halloween an American holiday? Absolutely not. In fact, Halloween is considered to be one of the oldest holidays in the world, and one celebrated around the globe in one fashion or another.

Of course, it's not always labeled "Halloween" and doesn't always fall on Oct. 31. In Mexico and throughout Latin American, for example, the Halloween-type holiday is known as Las Dia de los Muertos, a celebratory day meant to honor the dearly departed.

Halloween-type celebrations appear to be a product of timing, observances of life giving way to death: They arrive at the very end of the harvest when fields lie fallow, and just before winter starts to bear down on us.

"It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts," according to

Fast forward to the eighth century, when Pope Gregory III chose Nov. 1 as All Saints' Day, a day to collectively honor saints and martyrs. And it wasn't long until the night became known as All Hallows’ Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Today, Halloween celebrations run the gamut in the U.S. West Hollywood and New York City celebrate as if there's no tomorrow. Other places more or less close the curtains, turn out the lights and hope the kids pass us by. Some adults go all out with the costumes (we're looking at you, Heidi Klum!),  while others wouldn't be caught dead in some get-up.


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--Rene Lynch

Photo: Jack-o'-lanterns are vintage Halloween. Credit: MCT