The origin of Halloween dates back around 2,000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celebrated on 1 November, it marked the end of summer and the beginning of the long, dark winter. The Celts believed that on this last day of the year the line between our world and the beyond became blurry and the ghosts of the deceased returned to roam the earth one more time. Druids would light huge fires, where people would throw in crops or animas as sacrifices, hoping to appease the gods and send them a mellow winter. They would dress themselves in beastly costumes, using animal heads and skins and with the help of the spirits around them try to tell each other’s futures. When they were eventually conquered by the Roman Empire, Samhain slowly got incorporated into their calendar. It fused with Feralia, the festival of the dead, as well as the festival of the goddess Pomona, the patron of the fruits and the trees. She was often depicted holding an apple, and during the celebration unmarried people would try to bite an apple floating in water, a tradition that is a part of Halloween to this day.
During the 9th century Christianity spread to the British Islands and like many pagan rituals, this too was incorporated in order to make the new religion more accessible. The 1st November became All Saints and the day after All Souls’ Day, celebrated with bonfires, parades and people dressed as saints, angels and devils. In Old English All Saints was called All-Hallows and the night before it became All-Hallows Eve, which gradually transformed into Halloween. It eventually found its way to the colonies of North America, where it once again mixed with a whole lot of other European and Native American customs until it finally emerged in the form we know today.
The origin of the Jack-O-Lantern stems from the old Irish legend of Stingy Jack. Jack was a mean old drunk, who delighted in playing tricks on everybody. At one point he managed to trick the Devil himself and was promised his soul would not enter Hell. Upon his death he was denied entrance to Heaven and so was doomed to wander. The Devil tossed him an ember from hell, which he placed in a hollowed-out turnip, which became his lantern.