What is Halloween?

Halloween, a contraction of Hallows' Evening is a holiday that precedes the Western Christian feast of All Hallow’s Day on November 1. Halloween is widely celebrated worldwide with trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins and other traditions.

Carved pumpkin

When is Halloween?

Since All Hallow’s Day always takes place on November 1, that means that Halloween is always celebrated on October 31. All Hallow’s Day is a Christian festival celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The first evidence for the November 1 date of celebration occurred during the reign of Pope Gregory III (731–741), who dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s, Rome, on November 1 in honor of all saints. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.

Another explanation for the date is found in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.The Celts chose November 1 as a start of their new year because it marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter and darkness. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

Celebrating Halloween

Second to Christmas, Halloween is the most celebrated holiday in the United States today. There are many different ways as to how people celebrate Halloween, but here is an overview of the most common celebrations.

Trick or treat!

On the evening of Halloween, children dress up, often in spooky costumes and go around the neighborhood. People who participate in this tradition often have their yard decorated with traditional Halloween decorations, such as pumpkins, jack-o’-lanterns, bats, skeletons and other spooky decorations. Children would ask for candy by saying the phrase ‘trick or treat’, with the trick referring to perform mischief on the homeowner. Some residents would place their treats on their porch instead for the children to collect.

Family in costume

Costumes and decorations

It is common for people in the United States to decorate both their houses and yards, as well as to make or buy costumes for themselves. Both costumes and decorations are usually themed towards spooky, with jack-o’-lanterns, witchcraft, tombstones, skeletons, ghosts, and skulls as commonly used attributes. The costumes can be worn when opening the door for trick-or-treaters, for customed parties or for special activities. The central colors for Halloween are traditionally black (death) and orange (pumpkin), with sometimes also purple (witchcraft).

Haunted attractions

Another common Halloween tradition is seasonal attractions, such as haunted houses and corn mazes. Certain theme parks are also known to host special Halloween events, often with dressed up actors, sometimes specifically instructed to scare people. It is also common to watch horror movies during Halloween.


In different countries around the world, different types of food are associated with Halloween, but the most well known are pumpkin (pie), candy apples, caramel corn, candy and chocolate.

Halloween food

Christian religious observances

Even though Halloween has no direct reference in the Bible, some Biblical principles are directly related to the celebration of Halloween. Common ways for Christians to celebrate Halloween, other than participating in celebrations already discussed, are praying, fasting and attending worship services.

Exchanging gifts

Although not as common as with Christmas, some families choose to organize a Secret Santa at Halloween, where they will exchange gifts, without knowing who gave a gift to whom.
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Celebrating Secret Santa from a distance

Are you planning a Secret Santa for Halloween? Read all about how can you celebrate Halloween your way with the current coronavirus rules in our blog.