The origin of Halloween
Halloween is a favorite holiday for many children. What was once a regional affair is now spreading widely, even in countries without a history of Christianity or English being dominant.
The history of Halloween
Halloween is also known as: Hallowe'en, All Hallows’ Evening, Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, and All Saints' Eve.
The word as we know it today is a contraction of "All Hallows' Eve" as a "hallow" was an old word used as noun for a Saint. We still use the word "hallow" but almost only as a participle (an adjective created from a verb), such as in set expressions "hallowed be thy name".
It was originally celebrated as the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day or All Saints' Day. According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast influenced by Celtic pagan harvest festivals, particularly Samhain.
Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots, but there are few sources that back this up.
If a religious holiday seems to be traditional, but is not celebrated in every culture that has that religion, it is generally a safe bet that the holiday pre-dated the religious adoption. And this is most certainly the case with the Anglo/Celtic celebration of Halloween.
The history of the Jack-o'-Lantern
The term jack-o'-lantern (yes! That is how it is supposed to be written!) was originally an alternate term for the "Will-o'-the-wisp" a feature of traditional English folklore, but inspired by the real world visual phenomenon common in the English moors of "ignis fatuus", which is Latin for "foolish fire."
Modern science supposes that they might have been simple methane leaks (many occurred in wetlands, bogs, and peat mires) or other simple natural phenomenon. But folk belief says that these spontaneous fires were the souls of the dead. Often, a "hobby lantern" might be lit intentionally to elicit this same belief. These lanterns when observed on graveyards, are known as "ghost candles".
Common in East England, the term has been used consistently since the 1660s. The term "will-o'-the-wisp" uses the given name Will (assumed to be equally popular with ghosts of men as living men) and "wisp" (a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch), effecitively meaning "Will with the torch". "Jack-o'-lantern" is of the same construction, but with another common given name.