Like many modern holidays the history of Halloween is based in ancient pagan rituals and celebrations. November 1st originally marked the end of summer and was celebrated with a huge feast including everyone in the village. Each family in the village would gather for the feast and bring a candle. The fire from each candle was thrown into a ceremonial bonfire in the religious center of the village. Animals (usually cattle were sacrificed and tossed into the bonfire. The morning after the bonfire each family would take an ember from the fire home and use it to light the cooking fire in their house. The ceremony was used to unite the villagers all together and build a sense of community. While animals are no longer slaughtered community bonfires are still a very popular custom throughout Ireland and other regions of Europe.
As Christian missionaries moved throughout Europe they began to adopt and modify many of the existing pagan rights and rituals like Halloween (also see Christmas and Easter). In some cultures All Saints Day plays a large role in others it is considered a minor holiday. Many fundamentalist Christians don’t participate in the holiday and consider it strictly a pagan ritual. However most people consider Halloween a secular holiday.
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