Halloween parties have gotten to be more popular every year. It’s not hard to see why. A Halloween party practically gives itself. The decorations are dictated by the holiday, they will be orange and black, there will be pictures of black cats with their backs arched and their ears laid back, there will be pictures of bats and witch’s cauldrons. There are no gifts to buy and no cards to send. You just need a bowl of punch and some finger food and you’re all set! Right?

Well, yes, but do you know what you are celebrating and why? The word “Halloween” originated in the Catholic Church. It is a contraction (some say corruption) of All Hallow’s Day or All Saint’s Day. According to Catholic beliefs, this is a day to honor the saints. But the celebration (and I use the term loosely) actually originated with the Celtic society that occupied what is now England and the surrounding area many centuries ago.

According to the Celtic calendar, November 1 was the first day of their New Year. October 31 marked the end of summer and the end of the harvest season. The Celtics believed that on October 31 the barrier between the living and the dead was opened and that the dead could return to earth and cause problems for the living like crop failure, sickness, and even death.

The Celtics built bonfires and threw the bones of animals that had been slaughtered to provide provisions for the cold winter months into it. The Celtics wore masks and costumes to prevent the returning dead from recognizing them.

The holiday has changed over the years of course. Many societies have contributed to the holiday that we now call Halloween. The day (and night) is a mixture of customs from around the world. It has lost all of its religious connections. There are real or imaginary connections to the occult. But mostly Halloween is simply a celebration that comes at the end of the fall season and before the beginning of winter. It’s just a time for fun, and giving a Halloween party is a piece of cake!