The thirty-first of October was the last day of the year, according to old-time Celtic reckoning.
Ghosts walked until the midnight of that evening, and all witches held their annual festivals, riding to them on their broomsticks in the company of their black cats.
Many of our present customs and sports in observance of the day trace back to the time when it figured as the Celtic New Year’s Eve. But with the introduction of Christianity, New Year’s no longer was observed on November 1 and belief in witches was discouraged.
However, as with other pagan observances in old England, the Church transformed the occasion of celebration into one of sacred character. Instead of celebrating “all witches,” as in the past, the occasion was transformed into one for celebrating “all saints.”
Thus, because hallow was the term used in England for “saint,” or “holy man,” until the fifteenth century, the celebration became All Hallows’ E’en, literally, “All Saints’ Evening.”
The contraction to hallowe’en followed as a matter of course.