­Halloween­ Image Gallery
­Halloween­ Image Gallery

Halloween stands out as one of the most unique holidays in the United States. See more Halloween pictures.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

­In the United States and Canada, every October brings an ­avalanche of carved pumpkins, dancing skeletons, smiling ghosts, and witches riding on brooms. Halloween certainly stands out from the rest of the holidays we obse­rve ­ throughout the year: It's full of frightening ghost stories, pranks, elabor­ate costumes and bizarre games. On Halloween, we all revel in being scared.

Halloween also stands out because of its unique mix of secular and religious elements. In recent years, the holiday has stirred up a lot of controversy because it offends some Christian groups, which in turn upsets many modern-day Wiccans and Druids.

­If you've ­ever wondered where all those peculiar Halloween practices come from, or you can't figure out why Halloween is such a hot topic with a lot of people, then this article will get you ready for the next October 31. We'll look at both the Celtic and Christian origins of Halloween, examine all the favorite Halloween traditions and sort out a little bit of the Halloween controversy.

The next time you're carving a pumpkin or handing out candy to little Draculas and Darth Vaders, you'll actually know where these practices come from.