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Scare up some Halloween fun at your library

Why do we celebrate Halloween the way we do?

Halloween developed from an ancient pagan festival celebrated by Celtic people over 2,000 years ago in the area that is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northwestern France.

The festival marked the start of the dark winter season and was celebrated around Nov. 1. In the A.D. 700s to 800s, the Christian church established a new holiday, All Saints' Day or All Hallows' on this date. The name All Hallows' Eve eventually evolved into Halloween.

The myriad of Halloween traditions were brought to America with the immigrants from Ireland and Scotland in the 1800s. Our Celtic ancestors used turnips or large beets with candles in them for lanterns; this was the precursor to jack-o-lanterns.

People in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s believed witches and their black cat companions, fairies, ghosts, and all things supernatural could do evil. They believed if they cut grotesque faces in their beet or turnip lantern this would scare away those evil entities. Once they were in America, pumpkins replaced the turnips and beets solely because of quantity and availability.

The original Celtic "trick or treating" was done by masked adults who went house to house trying to collect food for a Halloween feast. Today, Halloween is the second most profitable holiday in the U.S., beat out only by Christmas, according to the World Book Encyclopedia.

Americans take Halloween seriously, if you are getting into the spirit of the day come into your library to find celebratory ideas or just fiction stories on the topic.

• Martha's Halloween Ideas, starring Martha Stewart. This DVD offers a variety of tips from the renowned domestic goddess on how to make the spooky holiday more enjoyable for everyone. She offers numerous cooking and decorating tips designed to help any homemaker.

• Fun to Make Crafts for Halloween, edited by Tom Daning. Have a frightfully good time when you make these "boo-tiful" crafts and masks for a spirited Halloween. On the pages of this book you'll find one-of-a-kind decorations, thoughtful cards and gifts, and delightful toys and games-149 in all- fashioned from simple supplies and household items.

Plus, trick-or-treaters will find inspiration in the colorful masks pictured inside. Be a bear, a clown, a lion, a caterpillar, even a three-headed monster. Step-by step directions and full-color photographs of every craft ensure success for young craft makers.

• Halloween Night, by Marjorie Dennis Murray. Loosely based on The Night Before Christmas, this rhyming story tells of a group of animals, monsters, and witches who prepare such a frightening Halloween party that their expected trick-or-treaters all run away.