I was raised in a very religious household. The celebration of Halloween was forbidden. As a child, although I trusted my parents, I really could not see the harm in dressing up as some kind of fantasy character and traipsing door to door in my neighborhood asking for candy handouts. That seemed the perfect way for a precocious, imaginative child to spend an evening. But, that fun was not for me. Now that I am an adult with my own children, I feel the need to understand the history of the fall season celebrations so that I can set a good example for my own kids.
First of all, why the costumes? It seems about 2000 years ago, the Celts had a traditional celebration on November 1 that recognized the official end of summer. This was done by bringing in the harvest. The night before, October 31, they would build great bonfires and celebrate. They believed the season of the cold, dark winter that was beginning was associated with death because the days were shorter and nights longer. They feared the spirits of the dead tha would be running amok throughout the upcoming season would awaken that night so they dressed in costumes to scare them away.
And the traditional game of bobbing for apples? Why that? The Romans also had a festival held in late October in honor of Pomona who was the goddess of fruit trees. The apples was her traditional symbol. Eventually the Romans would conquer the land of the Celts. These two traditions blended together when they combined holiday customs. This, perhaps, is the how the popular Halloween party-game began.