This is my favorite time of year. It's fall and the leaves look pretty. There is a chill in the air announcing the coming of winter, which I personally prefer to summer as I'm fat and fat people warm up better than they cool down, or at least I do. Plus, best of all is Halloween, a vastly over commercialized holiday that has long since been stripped of all it's Christian meaning, which fits me just fine, as the Christian only celebrated something this time of year to steal the pagan harvest festivals and try to claim them for Christianity.
According to Wikipedia there seems to still be some scholarly debate on the matter, but my basic understanding goes something like this. The Celtic peoples of western Europe didn't really bother to follow the four seasons with their calendar. They split the year into a dark half, winter, and a light half, summer. This is like how a day is split between the dark night and light day. And Celts, and many other ancient cultures I think, started their "days" on the dark half. So sunset marks the beginning of a new day that lasts until the next sunset. This makes vastly more sense to me than our own current method of having the day start at midnight.
Though personally, unless I'm referring specifically to calendrical dates, my day ends when ever I happen to get some sleep, unless it is just a short nap for some reason, and the new day starts when ever I wake up and start my activities for the next day. Some of my days have been known to stretch out over 30-40 hours. When I use words like "tomorrow" or "yesterday" this is usually what I mean.
Anyway, back to the matter I was talking about. So the Celts also started their year on the dark half, which starts at roughly November 1, as their calendar was lunar and it actually started at the full moon roughly at the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Our solar calendar doesn't translate that very well so Halloween is always October 31 for us. So the sun sets on October and the festival of Samhain starts. Samhain translates to "summer's end."
Samhain was a harvest festival to celebrate that bounties of the fields they just finished harvesting. A festival to remember the dead was often held on this same day, as pagans believed this time marked a point where the border between this world and the otherworld was thinnest. As this is the point in the year when the summer grass stops growing to be able to feed the livestock, and the winter cold starts to freeze so meat will keep longer, they would slaughter some of their livestock at this time. The bones from these slaughter animals would be thrown into the big bonfires, or bonefires, of the festival, and I think this is what caused some later Christians to think they were sacrificing these animals to their pagan gods, which of course Christians always seem to think is Satan.
So how did Samhain become Halloween you might ask? Well the Christians decided to put their holiday of All Saint's Day on November 1. All Saint's Day is also called All Hallow's Day, and thus the night before is All Hallow's Eve. At some point along the way All Hallow's Eve got shortened to Halloween. So thus Halloween is the only holiday I know of that people celebrate the day before the actual holiday they are supposed to be celebrating and then forget to celebrate the actual holiday.
I generally consider myself to be pagan and I have a great respect for the ancient Celtic people and their believes. So as such Halloween is the only holiday I ever really care to celebrate. I still call it Halloween instead of Samhain because it's what I've grown up knowing the day as. I would have liked to have a bonfire, minus the bones since I have no livestock I need to slaughter for the winter, again this year like I had with a friend last year, with no accidents leading to the breaking of his puppy's leg this time and the ending of the night early to take care of the little guy, but the weather does not seem to want to cooperate with us this year. We'll find alternative methods to celebrate in our own way.
Note: Halloween is not a time to dress up and run around acting like an idiot to me. That's what the rest of the year is for after all.