world

All Hallows’ Eve: History and meaning behind the holiday

By CNN Staff

Published November 1, 2020

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You might think Halloween is all about candy, costumes, ghosts and ghouls. But did you know about the holiday’s religious background?

Shutterstock

In fact, the word Halloween is derived from "All Hallows' Eve," which falls on October 31, marking the day before All Saints' Day on November 1.

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Halloween comes from an ancient pagan festival celebrated by Celtic people over 2,000 years ago called Samhain, meaning "summer's end." They believed the festival was a time when the dead could walk among the living.

David Cheskin/PA Wire/AP

Christianity adopted October 31 as a holiday in the 11th century, in an effort to reframe pagan celebrations as its own. But many aspects of Samhain continued.

Getty Images

Trick-or-treating, for example, began in areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland, where people went house to house asking for small breads in exchange of prayer.

And those traditions eventually made their way to America, thanks to the immigrants from Ireland and Scotland who brought Halloween to the United States in the 1800s.

Shutterstock

Pope Gregory III established November 1 as All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, a day to honor all saints of the church that have attained heaven. “The evening before All Saints’ Day became a holy, or hallowed, eve and thus Halloween,” according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images

To celebrate All Hallows' Eve, some people go to church, according to Christianity.com, and others might refrain from eating meat for the day.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

All Souls' Day is the day after All Saints' Day on November 2. Together, All Hallows' Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls' Day make up Allhallowtide.

PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

For some people around the world, Halloween -- and the days after -- mark a celebration of saints and a time to honor, pay respects and pray for the dead.

AFP/Getty Images