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No matter what your age, the last night of October is always one to look forward to celebrating. Halloween means kids running around in costumes, family and friends getting together and a chance talk with neighbors. What other holiday do you have an excuse to eat all the sugar you want and wear whatever you want? But Halloween wasn’t always the same celebration we experience today. In fact, Halloween’s origins date back thousands of years to the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, pronounced sow-in.

Modern day Halloween has also brought some new traditions to the table as well as variations on old ones. Visiting haunted houses is a more modern tradition that most likely started as a commercial venture and often works as a way to raise money for non-profit organizations. While dressing in costumes for this day dates back thousands of years, today we see an insurgence of costumes inspired by popular culture, such as movie stars or politicians. Americans tend to see more humorous costumes than scary ones in the current times. Additionally, the tradition of trick-or-treating, which infers that if someone is not satisfied with the treat you are likely to get a trick, has evolved into an activity for younger children accompanied by parents. The parents remember in the 1970s the rumors that poisoned Halloween candy was handed out. Today older children and adults are more likely to attend a costume party instead, where best costume prizes are awarded. Most parties are held in homes but bars and nightclubs also hold similar events.

Other countries also celebrate holidays around the same time. In Mexico it is called The Day of the Dead, which coincides with All Souls’ Day and blends Catholic and Native American traditions. Mexicans decorate their homes with human skeletons, food for wondering spirits and graves for their deceased relatives. In England, Guy Fawkes’ Day has largely taken the place of Halloween. It is celebrated on November 5 and is a patriotic holiday. Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up parliament in the early 1600s but failed. The conspirators were tortured and executed before they could carry out their plans. The holiday commemorates this victory.

Halloween is one of the oldest and the second most popular only to Christmas in America. Millions celebrate the holiday each year without knowing its origins, which make the holiday that much more exciting. Some view Halloween as a time for fun, friends and family. Others still see its superstitious nature or ties to deceased. Some religions even view it as an unholy holiday. But whatever your view, you cannot deny the fascinating nature of the story of Halloween.