October 31st didn't have much significance back in the dark ages or so historians seem to think. The day was just the one before All Soul's Day (or All Saint's Day) but over time it has snowballed into something much bigger even than the original celebration itself.
It is the time when Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Leggity Beasties walk amongst us to terrify us all.
I suppose that it makes sense in the fact that the evil spirits and incarnations, devils, demons and other wicked beings got to thinking "Hey, the Goody Two-Shoes get their own day so why don't we have ours? We can make more mischief and mayhem on the evening before, whilst they're preparing for their big day and aren't concentrating on us. Let’s PARTY!!!"
Any excuse for a knees-up, those demons...
But it’s not just the Yanks that celebrate Halloween, although America has taken the celebration and twisted it into something far bigger and more commercial than I remember from my childhood - Hey! My childhood was NOT that long ago!
Halloween is more about candy* and dress-up in America and less about keeping evil spirits at bay and that ethos has crept its way across the 'Pond' to Good Old Blighty and has insinuated itself over our traditions and customs (much in the same way that Christianity did with the celebration of the Goddess Eostre and also the 12 days of Yule) and I'm afraid that the fear-factor has gone.
Halloween is now celebrated on the closest Friday and Saturday to October 31st and if Halloween falls on mid-week you can see ghosts, vampires, witches and weirdos walking about unfettered for more than a week.
How times have changed.
At one time it was thought that as the dark winter nights drew in, evil spirits came out for longer periods (makes sense - the longer the dark nights were, the more time the spirits had to do their thing). The Celts used bonfires to drive the evil spirits away. As the Celts celebrated New Year on November 1st, the coming of winter, it made sense to clear away anything that would make a bad start to the brand new year - that included the evil influence of spirits.
It became a time of spooky stories and scaring the hell out of each other and perhaps the odd practical joke (which sometimes turned bad and people got injured or killed... no? Oh, just me then...).
In 'Deadlier... Than The Male' - my first novel - I wrote a little about the festival of 'Feralia'. Now, as convenient as that may sound for a significant celebratory night in a Werewolf society, it is not a made up word. It really was a festival and it was woven around the celebration for the souls of deceased relatives. However, Feralia was celebrated on 21st February, not 31st October - I took artistic licence on that I'm afraid.
So why do so many people celebrate - or at least mark the occasion - of October 31st?
It is because there are strange and inexplicable occurences that we still can't get to grips with and the human mind likes to know what's what and have everything neatly parcelled and labelled as definite. We are the smartest species on Planet Earth and we know everything there is to know about... well, everything - right?
Not really, no.
If we knew everything, there would be no religion and no superstition and therefore no Halloween, no Easter and no Christmas.
*Candy - chocolate, sweeties and other confectionary items.