It is the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows or All Saints Day.
The Puritans of New England maintained strong opposition to Hallowe'en and it was not until the mass Irish and Scottish immigration during the 19th century that it was brought to North America in earnest.
Confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-19th century, it was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the 20th century it was being celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.
Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (also known as "guising"), attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
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