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Are you wondering why pint-sized ghouls and goblins are wandering the streets and ringing strangers' doorbells; why your significant other is pestering you to dress up as Sonny to her Cher at a masquerade ball; why goosebumps and shivers are in the air; and why chocolates seem to come only in miniature sizes this time of year? Well, when digging for the roots of the modern Halloween, there are three words to keep in mind:

Samhain. The Celts of modern-day Ireland and the UK two and a half millennia ago braced themselves for winter with this festival, which is pronounced "sowen," literally means "summer's end" and falls on November 1. It heralds the beginning of the dark, cold half of the year. (Its counterpart was Beltane, which kicked off the warm, light half of the year on May 1.) The harvest was gathered in to protect against the wintry blast of the faeries' breath, and Samhain was an occasion for thanksgiving, sacrifices, divination and prayers. In each home the hearth-fire was extinguished the night before and relit on Samhain from the central bonfires of the priestly Druids.

Pomona. She is the Roman goddess of fruit trees and the symbol of abundance. There was a festival dedicated to her worship at the end of autumn, around the time of the big harvest. When the Romans arrived in Britain, in the first century, they melded their customs with those of the Celts whom they conquered.

Feralia. This is the ancient Roman festival of the dead, which was held on February 21 with prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the deceased. The customs of this day were also blended by the Romans with those of Samhain. Feralia was superseded in the Christian Church by All Saints Day, also known as All Hallow's Day or Hallowmas, observed on May 13. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1 (though it is still marked in springtime, on the Sunday after Pentecost, by the Eastern Orthodox Church). All Saint's Day was followed by All Soul's Day, established by Saint Odilo of Cluny on November 2 to remember the souls awaiting release from Purgatory. Halloween is a contraction for "Hallow's even" — the evening of All Hallow's Day, i.e., October 31."

**taken from definition provided by