I don’t know if you are aware but it is soon to be Halloween. That calendar date that always gets mixed reactions, you hide behind drawn curtains and a locked door avoiding trick or treaters, or you embrace the age old tradition and offer fruit, small change or sweets. You dress in crazy outfits and celebrate or you put on your Sunday best and shake your heads at those party animals. Whatever our beliefs we all treat Halloween a little different to someone else.
This year I have been challenged with the task of throwing a party in my home to celebrate Halloween. Due to the expectant ‘party animal’ that comes with my age group of 25, I couldn’t refuse… bring on being 65 I say! Joking aside, I do love an excuse to have all my close friends in the same room. So suppose like many others, I celebrate Halloween like many others… with very little knowledge of the date.
So I took it upon myself to educate … myself! Here’s what I have learnt;
1. It is believed by some that we celebrate Halloween due to Samhain. The Celts, some of the French and the UK used to celebrate new year on the 1st of November, Thus making Halloween the new years eve celebrations 2000 or so years ago.
2. This New Year, marked summer’s end, harvest time, and the start of winter. On October 31st, the Celts celebrated Samhain. This day, they believed, was when the ghosts of the deceased returned to earth because the boundaries between the living world and the dead world blur.
3. Trick or Treating is thought to derive from the poor begging the rich for food to get them through cold, dark winters. Also, possibly, trick or treating could come from our ancestors leaving bowls of food on their doorsteps to stop the spirits from entering their homes. (Is this a reason why we dress up and knock on peoples doors for treats?)
4. People used to wear masks so the spirits would not recognize them! This could quite possibly be a reason we dress up.
There is, however, little historic evidence to prove these theories.
Then you have the catholic side of things.
5. Deriving from the Catholic Church in Rome, Halloween is short for “All Hallows Eve”. Hallow means holy or Saint in old English. So Halloween is the Eve of All Saints Day.
6. All Saints Day was started as a local feast in about 750 AD on November 1st to commemorate the dedication of a chapel in Rome to “All Saints” (all the saints but particularly those who did not have a special day.) Over the following century it spread throughout Europe and became very popular with celebration starting the night before (the Eve or Vigil) and continuing through to the next day.
7. November 2nd was added later as “All Souls” day which made the festival even more popular. People used to go round asking for cakes in exchange for prayers for the souls of people’s families (later changed into “trick or treat”).
8. Puritan protestants hated this sort of thing, it included “begging” and other “pagan” practices. They attacked it as be evil, un-biblical etc.
So these are apparently the reasons we celebrate Halloween. feeling a little more knowledgeable, I am still wondering what my chosen drink will be for the night. But out of tradition I shall pay my respects to those we have lost. I wont however be leaving food on my doorstep, I think I’d rather have a few lost souls popping in rather than a crowd of stray animals on the step in the morning! As for dressing up… I still have no idea what to dress up as… but I shall be hidden behind a disguise for the night!