The leaves are turning brown, the nights are drawing in... Autumn is here and so begins the countdown to Halloween.

Thoughts will soon turn to spooky costumes, pumpkin carving and trick or treating — so we've had a look at why we celebrate All Hallow's Eve each year.

This year Halloween falls on a Saturday (October 31, of course!) — giving you the whole weekend to celebrate if you wish!

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Pagan in origin, Halloween was first known as the festival of Samhain and dates back thousands of years.

Celtic people across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland would mark the end of summer and the the harvest at the end of each October, welcoming the beginning of winter.

However, it was believed that this time of year also allowed the spirits of the dead to come alive and revisit the mortal world — so to ward off evil spirits, pagans threw huge parties, lit bonfires and wore costumes.

Decades later, when Christianity became more prominent, Halloween became known as All Hallows' Eve, the day before All Saints Day — November 1.

But it was the Americans that made Halloween the community celebration it is today.

Taking inspiration from the Irish and English traditions that came with the Irish immigrants who made new lives in the US, Americans began to dress in costumes and visit houses asking for food or money — which became trick or treating.

Halloween became a community event, with parties for children and adults and special food, games and costumes.

It's popularity grew in the 20th century, with Halloween traditions like pumpkin carving and trick or treating at the heart of US and UK celebrations.

Are you excited for Halloween?

Halloween

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