Samhain…”The Night Of Death!”
The current name comes from “All Hallows Eve” but like other celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, the roots of the celebration go back to Pagan times to the holiday of “Samhain” (pronounced Sah-ween) which signified the end of summer.
The Druids of Ancient Britain, celebrated Samhain on October the 31st (or thereabouts – depending if they had an auntie to buy them a diary for Christmas – sorry Yule) November the 1st falls between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice (ish). The eve of Samhain, October the 31st was the night that the Lord of Death judged the souls of the departed.
For the Celts in particular, Samhain was the biggest and most significant holiday of year. They believed that at this time the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living. The souls of those who had died during the previous year would travel to the other world.
As might be expected from ancient Pagan festivals, there was much drinking of very rough brews and chucking away of food and other goodies in a melodramatic manner to please and appease the gods.
Samhain was a favourite time for foretelling the future the Druids used the “sacred apple” for this, as time has gone on the Chinese Whispers of tradition has turned this into “bobbing” for apples – fishing for floating apples in a bowl of water using only your mouth. (My Granny used to call having a no.2 (ahem – sorry) “having a bob” – imagine the motion – so as a child I used to find the concept of bobbing for apples hilarious).
Another variant is to have the apples suspended on strings and try to catch them in the mouth as they swing.
Special foods and meals were often made for the souls of the dead and for deceased ancestors. In England “soul cakes” cakes were made for these wandering souls, and people went “a’ soulin” for these at Halloween.
Courtesy of: http://www.angliangardener.co.uk/Lore/halloween.php