It’s official, October is here. And that can only mean one thing… Guy Fawkes Night is a month away! But also, Halloween is approaching. Yes, the age old pagan festival – more like painful, right? (hope that pun landed somewhere.) ‘Tis the season of pumpkins, sweets and ridiculous costumes, but Halloween is very much the marmite amongst all the holidays. Some love it, and others, well.
Depending where you fall, you may or may not know about the origins and traditions of Halloween. And because it’s a little early for us to tell you what you can do this Halloween, we’ve put together a list of Halloween facts, to quench your spooky thirst.
Believed to date back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic times, ‘Samhain’ or Halloween as it is now known, is the festival that signified the end of the harvest and the start of the new Celtic year. (November 1st) The ancient Celts would adorn costumes and light bonfires in order to frighten off spirits and ghosts. However, when Christianity first arrived in England and Europe, November 1st became All Saints Day, a day for the saints that didn’t have one of their own. The night before this, Christians would partake in a mass - ‘All hallows mass’, just a big ol’ mass which eventually became known as Halloween.
Famed for being the holiday of magic and mystery, there are many myths that surround Halloween. Some believe that if you see a spider on Halloween, it may be a deceased loved one watching over you and black cats were believed to protect witches’ powers from ‘negative forces’. Whilst other myths state that if you met a witch, you should turn all your clothes inside out and walk away backwards. Also, that ringing a bell will frighten evil spirits away –we can only dream that this would work on unwanted trick or treaters.
Before American traditions were shipped over, the famous ‘Jack O’lantern’ pumpkin was a turnip (not quite as colourful). The original turnip carving tradition comes from Irish folklore, where a man named Jack, tried to trick the devil and was forced to wander the Earth with nothing but a poorly lit turnip, for eternity. Jack O’lanterns are lit to scare off Jack and other roaming spirits around the spooky season.
Adopting the carving tradition, Americans in the 19th Century chose to carve pumpkins instead of turnips. This is because pumpkins grow in a greater supply and are easier to carve than turnips. And they sent it right back to us, along with trick or treating… Unfortunately, Jack O’lanterns don’t ward off trick or treaters the same way they do evil spirits. Most homes use the lantern to signify they welcome trick or treaters. (seems daft to me) Speaking of which…
Whilst trick or treating has been imported from America, the true origins of the traditions remain unknown. Some suggest that the ‘delightful’ activity could date back to the Celtic Samhain tradition. When ancient Celts dressed up as ghosts and exchanging food around a bonfire. By 1000 AD, the tradition had changed. The poor would go to the houses of the rich, and exchange prayers for deceased rich family members, for food. Now, it’s children in spooky costumes and a few teenagers that probably should have stopped a few years prior.
For all the latest updates on Halloween events and attractions near you, make sure you keep an eye out for listings on our Events page and our next blog post. It’s going to be a spooky one…