Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time often associated with death. The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. They celebrated Samhain on the night of October 31, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
During the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; this incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows' Eve and later became Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating, costume parties, and carving jack-o'-lanterns.
In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, rather than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. As a result, the holiday lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
Today, Halloween has become a commercialized and popular celebration in many parts of the world, with people of all ages participating in festivities such as costume parties, haunted houses, trick-or-treating, and other activities. The holiday has also been heavily influenced by popular culture, with various films, television shows, and commercial products adding to its modern traditions.