Halloween (or Samhain, the original Celtic name) is celebrated all around the world in a variety of ways. We’re going to talk about how All Hallows’ Eve came about, how it evolved over the years, pumpkins and where Terrys Chocolate Orange comes into the story!
What is Halloween?
Hallowe’en is a celebration that is known around the world. Many countries celebrate it on the 31st of October as the evening feast of Hallows’ Day of the Western Christians.
It is a three days ritual or ceremony to remember the dead such as saints or hallows, and martyrs in the liturgical year.
It is said that Halloween traditions were first observed in ancient Celtic harvest festivals, mainly in the Gaelic festival Samhain, originated by the pagans. It is believed to be originated in a Christian holiday and marked the start of the Celtic new year.
At this time of year, the most popular practice in Hallows’ Eve is to sit in on church services, visiting graves of dead relatives and friends. These practices are common in many countries.
Aside from religious practices on Halloween or Hallows’ Eve, trick or treating and Halloween costume parties are also very popular. Some do pumpkin carving to make jack-o-lanterns, some light bonfires.
Watching horror movies and telling scary stories with lights off in the room is also common for most children on Halloween.
The History of Hallowe’en – Celtic festivals
The religious practice of Halloween believes to be originated in Celtic times by the pagans.
Eventually, dressing up in disguise become popular in Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales and Ireland, way back in about the 16th century.
Trick or Treat
Trick or treat tradition is all about putting on costumes or disguise and roaming around the neighbourhood, threatening to ‘trick’ the neighbours. This tradition believes to be impersonating old winter spirits who request a reward for good fortune.
In parts of Southern Ireland, people put on costumes and ride a hobby horse or whatever they want, then recite verses or songs in every house in exchange for food.
They believe that if the household donates food to the guiser, the household can expect good fortune from the Muck Olla (and old Celtic boogeyman); otherwise, he brings curse and misfortune.
Mumming (dressing up with a mask) and riding a hobby horses have become part of yearly practise in some parts of Europe. In the 18th century, putting on costumes turns to playing pranks in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.
Halloween pranks spread rapidly to England in the 20th century. Until present, playing pranks on Halloween night is still popular.
Commonly, before the Christian holy days of All Soul’s Day on the 1st of November and All Saints’ Day on the 2nd of November, observance of Halloween occurs. The 31st of October eventually became a Christian holiday.
Like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are celebrated a night before the date, so does the practice of Halloween.
Allhallowtide is the name given to the three consecutive days remembering relatives departed, praying for souls, and honouring the saints and martyrs.
In the late 12th century, it becomes traditional holy practice across Europe, and it includes ringing the church bells for souls. Moreover, some Christians dressed in black parades in the streets, with bells ringing to remind Christians to honour poor souls.
Cake baking is also popular. Way back 15th century, poor people, especially children in some parts of England, collect cake door to door on Hallows’ Eve or Halloween in exchange for praying for the souls of friends and relatives who passed away.
Scary costumes are the most popular on Halloween. Vampires, Dracula, the devil, monsters and skeletons are some costume characters that are popular in Halloween.
However, according to a report from the National Retail Federation in 2018, the most popular costumes worn by kids are a princess or superhero. They even dress their pets! The most popular dog costume is a pumpkin, closely followed by a hot dog.
Pumpkins and the Jack-o’-lantern
Jack-o-lanterns are very popular on Halloween, a soul that has been denied in both heaven and hell. The folktale goes like this.
Once, while Jack is heading home after a night of drinking, Jack comes across the Devil. He tricks the Devil to climb on a tree. Jack quickly carves a sign of the cross on the trunk of the tree, trapping the Devil.
Jack makes a bargain with the Devil that his soul will not be claimed after he dies.
After a sinful life on earth, Jack dies and prohibited to enter heaven. Satan keeps his promise of not taking his soul and throws a fire straight from the hell to Jack.
Jack, freezing in the cold that night, he decides to put the fire inside the turnip to prevent it from escaping. To this day, Jack and his lantern are wandering and looking for a place to stay.
Keeping the Spirit Alive
In modern times, Halloween is one of the most anticipated events on the calendar, especially for kids to go ‘trick or treating’. Costume parties are still popular in almost all parts of the world.
Halloween is celebrated by millions. However, the true story behind it is fading. Whilst most of us think of it as an event to collect treats from neighbours, we miss the real spirit of Halloween, what it really means and why we started celebrating it in the first place.