Halloween is slowly creeping up on us, just 1 day away. Pumpkins are being carved, people are dressing up, drinking and partying. And people seem to wonder, why are we dressing up, buying and carving pumpkins, and what even are we celebrating?
Halloween is an annual holiday that is celebrated on the 31st October, which I’m sure everyone knows. This originated from old European traditions from the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, meaning “Summers End”, which celebrates the end of the harvest season. I quite like the idea of this, the end of summer and the beginning of winter.
Pope Gregory III designated November the first as All Saints Day to honour all the saints; which was then incorporated with Samhain traditions.
The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and now has evolved in to Halloween. The word “Halloween” literally stands for “hallowed evening’ the night before ‘All Hallows Day’ or ‘All Saints Day’ and therefore is celebrated the night before this day, on the 31st October. It is also known as Allhalloween, All Hallow’s Eve or All Saints’s Eve (1st November). It is celebrated the night before so they could warn off all the evil!
Some cultures actually believed that this time was a fine time for the boundary between this world and the next which enables them to connect with the dead and it was easier for them to move among the living. I don’t really know where that came from but maybe because it’s the end of summer, so it’s getting colder? But traditions tradition I guess. This idea is shared with multiple cultures including Jews holiday of Yom Kippur which also happens in October that involves saying prayers for the dead. Some still believe this and continue to celebrate it with that in mind.
This tradition was created to try and scare off any evil spirits by dressing up as saints, angels and demons. Funnily enough, people still dress up as these.
The main tradition of having spooky costumes for the festival dates all the way back to the Celts, who disguised themselves to blend in with the ghosts believed to wander the Earth on Samhain.
But in Britain, dressing up in costumes grew and Scottish and Irish pranksters thought it was a great idea to dress up in scary looking rubbish just to scare the neighbours. It sounds very British for scums to do so that makes sense. This is definitely something people still do. And since then, Halloween costumes became scary, funny, adventurous and creative. People sometimes dress up to try and be someone else just for a night. It’s quite inspiring.
Children used to dress up and go house to house to ask for food, “soul cakes”, in exchange for them to recite songs/verses which means praying for the souls of their friends and relatives.
The soul cakes were sweet and were cross marked on top so when they were eaten, it represents a soul being freed from purgatory.
This seems quite gruesome and very religious, which I they were back then. And now, children do the same but get sweets and toffee apples instead. Whichever sounds so much better to me.
They also burned crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic dieties. This was thought to help have a longer winter to come. Now we take that and dress up to have fun and have it as an excuse to go out, drink and dress up in random, funny clothing. I’m sure they didn’t see think that was ever going to become of it. They also share special feasts and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds. We like to play with this idea and carve scary faces in to pumpkins. They are placed usually in front of the door and around the house to scare the demons away.
The holiday almost didn’t make it far around the world because of the Pagan roots. But once the Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived in America, the more enjoyable people found it.
Trick-or-treating was first used in 1927 in America, didn’t even become widespread until 1940’s. I guess people didn’t really catch on for while because they didn’t understand it.
Around the world, everyone celebrates this holiday differently and some really stick with old traditions.
In Austria some people leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before going to bed. It is believed that this will welcome dead souls back to Earth.
Meanwhile in Germany, people hide their knives to make sure none of the returning spirits are harmed – or come to harm them!
In the city of Kawasaki in Japan holds an annual Halloween costume parade. More than 100,000 watch it and 2,500 people take part.
Personally, it’s only once in a while that I’ll actually make the effort to dress up. It’s not something I enjoy that much, but this year, definitely! We’re all going as the Scooby-Doo gang, and I’m going to be scooby. I’m can’t wait!
Pumpkin carving, dressing up, decorating will stay a long lived tradition thanks to the old european beliefs!
But whatever you end up doing, have a great Halloween! 🎃