Americans love Halloween, and despite the fact that it has religious and European origins, we Americans have put our own spin on the day.
Halloween dates back thousands of years to the ancient Celtic peoples in England and Ireland, who lit large bonfires to herald the coming of winter and the increase in darkness.
When the Romans conquered England and Ireland, their custom of commemorating the passing of the dead in late October became intermingled with the holiday.
Later, the church wanted to create a holiday around the time of Halloween to mark the Celtic celebrations sanctioned by the church, and in the 800s, Pope Boniface IV picked Nov. 1 as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. Because saints were called hallows in Middle English, the day became known as All Hallows, and the night before became known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.
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Although the English and Irish previously had carved faces into turnips or potatoes to ward off evil spirits, it was Americans who first carved pumpkins, which are native to North America, and placed them on their doorsteps.
Today, devils, ghosts and goblins are still an important part of Halloween, but it has lost much of its original religious undertones.
View a larger version of the Halloween graphic by Chris Ware here.
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL