You might call Halloween the one day in the year when we pause to consider the possibility of the supernatural.

October 31 is Halloween (also called Hallowe’en or Holloween). It’s the night that people young and old dress up in costumes and go to Halloween parties. Little kids go “trick or treating.” They dress up in costumes and traipse from door to door (hopefully under the supervision of a responsible adult) demanding candy or other treats. They knock on doors and yell, “Trick or treat!” The owners of the homes open the door, admire the costumes, and supply the treat to keep from being tricked.

Unfortunately, it is also a night when a great deal of damage is done to property. Halloween is one of the busiest nights of the year for law enforcement.

So how did this strange holiday get started? Samhain was a festival celebrated by the ancient Celtics. That festival is the basis of what we know today as Halloween. The Samhain Festival took place at the end of the harvest season. Some regard the Samhaim Festival as the Celetic New Year, but that is unclear. The ancient Celtics were pagans, and the Samhain Festival was a time when they slaughtered their livestock in order to supply provisions for the winter.

The pagan culture also believed that on October 31, the barrier between the living and the dead was opened and that the dead were dangerous to the living. They believed on October 31, the dead could damage crops or cause sickness.

There were huge bonfires where the bones of the slaughtered animals were burned. The citizens of that ancient culture wore masks and costumes in an attempt to either appease the dead or to imitate them.

Today we don’t slaughter animals or make bonfires to burn their bones as we celebrate Halloween. Most people do not believe that spirits come back to haunt the living on October 31. We have “haunted houses” and costume parties. The kids go “trick or treating.”