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Halloween Frequently Asked Questions

Origins of Halloween


Popular culture commonly makes a wide variety of claims concerning the nature and origin of Halloween, everything from being a Catholic celebration of the saints to harmless childhood fun to a devious Satanic plot. Learn to separate the faction from fiction about what we know (and don't know) about the origins of Halloween.

Q: Is Halloween Christian, Pagan, or Secular?

A: The most straightforward answer is "secular." People who celebrate this day in a religious context generally do not call it Halloween, and the common practices associated with Halloween such as costuming and giving of treats are secular celebrations. Read more

Q: Is Halloween Satanic?

A: Only in certain circumstances, and not historically. Halloween is most directly related to the Catholic holiday of All Hallows Eve, although it has picked up a variety of practices and beliefs most likely borrowed from folklore. Even the origins of those practices are often questionable... Read more

Q: What is Samhain?

A: Historically, Samhain was an Irish Celtic harvest festival that marked the beginning of the winter season. It is not likely to have been held on a specific calendar day, but rather whenever the harvest was finished for the year.

There are a variety of Halloween traditions often credited to Samhain, such as costume wearing and the creation of hallowed out vegetables (predecessors to the jack-o-lantern). Readers are cautioned to be very wary of such claims...Read more

Q: What is the Meaning and Origin of the Jack-O-Lantern?

A: The modern-day carving of pumpkins into lighted faces is generally traced back to European folk practices of doing similar carvings on turnips and other vegetables in order to keep away evil spirits.  However, such practices have only been associated with Halloween in the last 150 years or so...Read more

Q: Do Black Cats Really Get Sacrificed at Halloween?

A: There is various evidence that suggests that animal abuse, particularly targeting black cats, goes up slightly during the Halloween season.  However, there is no evidence that such incidents are the results of Satanists, pagans or...Read more

Q: What is the Origin of Trick-or-Treating?

A: The practice of traveling door to door begging for goods and threatening repercussions against the uncharitable is a common European practice dating back hundreds of years.  It is associated with a variety of holidays and events, and goes under such names as "souling," "guising" and "wassailing."  Christmas was a prime time for such antics...Read more

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