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Thank the Irish for Halloween celebrations

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Halloween, or the eve of All Saints' Day or All Hallows Eve, depending on which century you reference, is fast approaching.

Legend has it the traditional holiday at the end of October has its roots in pre-Christian Celtic Ireland, but some draw a connection back to Roman times.

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The celebration was originally at the end of the harvest season. The first day of winter was Nov. 1 in Celtic times, which would make more sense in this latitude than around Dec. 22 on the current calendar.

According to some historians in Celtic lore Samhain, Samain or Samuin (sow-an) was the name of the festival at the beginning of winter observed in medieval Ireland. It is verified in Old Irish literature beginning in the 10th century. The festival marked the end of the season for trade and warfare and was a time for tribal assemblies, where the local kings gathered their people. These gatherings in turn became a popular setting for early Irish tales.

One myth says on the evening before Samhain (Oct. 31) the gate between the living and dead opened and allowed the good and bad spirits of the dead to mingle among the living.

People dressed up in costumes during to hide from the evil spirits.

An edict by the pope to his missionaries attempting to convert the pagan Celts may be at the root of contemporary Halloween.

He ordered his emissaries to Ireland to incorporate the native customs and beliefs into Christian ceremonies and allow the people to continue to worship. Nov. 1 ultimately became All Saints Day.

The night before, Oct. 31, was considered a religious night. The term Halloween is believed to come from "hallow" from the term hallowed or sacred and "een" a shortened form or evening.

Celebrating Halloween lost steam when Protestants took over power in Europe and early history indicates from the earliest days of American settlement through the early 1800s, celebrating Halloween was forbidden.

The great influx of immigrants during the "Potato Famine" (the Great Hunger of 1845-1852) brought thousands of the Irish to American. Cultures combined and developed into modern day Halloween traditions.

The practice of "trick or treat" first appeared in the western United States and Canada in the early 20th century. Shortly after World War II, the practice of children dressed in costume, going house to house for trick or treat gained national popularity through magazines and radio.

Anoka, Minn., just north of the Twin Cities, claims to be the Halloween Capital of the World. According to the city's website on the celebration it was developed to divert youngsters from Halloween pranks. When residents found their cows roaming Main Street, windows soaped and outhouses tipped over, they decided something had to be done.

In 1920 Anoka civic leaders organized a giant celebration that has been held every year except 1942 and 1943 during World War II.

More than 1,000 years since Celtic tribes feasted the harvest and end of summer, Halloween has developed into a national celebration in America. Recent media accounts suggest adults are just as involved in their grown-up versions of Halloween as kids making their traditional journey from door to door on Oct. 31.

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