When is Halloween 2021? Why we celebrate All Saints’ Day on October 31 and how Samhain inspired the festival


Halloween is just around the corner, with long spooky nights gradually setting in with the arrival of autumn in the UK.

Nowadays, the festival is synonymous with horror movies, costume parties and pumpkins.

However, the origins of the festival are rooted in both Christianity and paganism – here’s everything you need to know about how it started.

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When is Halloween 2021?

Halloween is always celebrated on October 31 – the eve of the Christian holiday of All Saints ‘Day (or All Saints’ Day) – which means this year it will be celebrated on a Saturday.

Religious observance gives the faithful the opportunity to remember martyrs and saints, and dates back to the 4th century, although the date was not moved to November 1 until AD 837.

There has been a lot of debate about the origins of Halloween – some believe it is purely a Christian holiday, while others trace its roots back to Parentalia, the Roman festival of the dead.

However, the most widely held theory is that its base is at Samhain, a Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the start of the cold darkness of winter.

The Celts believed that at this time the world was more vulnerable to spirits, which could potentially cause the death of people and livestock during the winter.

Costumes have always been a key part of Halloween (Photo: Getty Images)

This fear has led to the development of customs to keep spirits at bay, such as lighting large fires and making sacrificial offerings.

It is believed that the early Christian missionaries held their own festival at the same time as the pagan observance with the aim of absorbing it into the Christian calendar and linking it to their existing All Saints.

The word Halloween itself dates back to the 18th century and means “hallowed (or holy) evening”.

Various Christian traditions have developed around the holiday, such as lighting candles, attending services and offering prayers to the dead, which are still observed by many people today.

Where do our Halloween traditions come from?

While the United States has been credited with turning Halloween into a predominantly secular business enterprise, many of the customs we know today have deep roots.

Robert Burns’ poem “Halloween”, published in 1785, notes how “spooky pranks ensue” and refers to the association of night with “bogies” or ghosts.

In Scotland and Ireland, it was a tradition to grotesquely carve a turnip lantern pumpkin, although 19th-century American immigrants preferred the larger, softer pumpkin, which is much easier to carve.

Costumes have always been a key element, dating back to the Celts adorning themselves in animal skins during Samhain and continued by Christians dressing as saints, angels and demons.

Like many age-old features of modern holidays, their prevalence snowballed in the United States, where mass-produced costumes first appeared in the 1930s after Halloween parties gained popularity.

Trick-or-treat has its origins in Christian practices such as mumming, souling, and guising – which involved going door-to-door for donations of food or money.

The term “trick-or-treat” did not appear until 1927 in Canada, with the practice appearing to be popularized again in the United States during the following decade.


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