Halloween sure is a big thing in the USA. Costumes, Trick or Treating, parties, the lot. Here in the UK, we’re a bit prone to dismissing it as new-fangled American stuff. But stop right there fellow Brits, because …..
The origins of Halloween
There’s lots of evidence to suggest that Halloween has it’s origins in Celtic and Pagan traditions. The end of summer – Samhain – festival was seen as a time of year when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld was thinner. That meant that spirits could easily pass through into our world. It was a time when souls of the dead could visit their families.
Then came Christianity. The festival of All Hallows is a time for honouring pious souls and saints. Did they impose a Christian meaning on this Celtic Pagan tradition, or did the two just mingle? We don’t know. Anyway, the result is the Halloween we have today. Which of course varies from one part of the world to another.
At All Hallows it was customary for children to go door to door collecting Soul Cakes in exchange for praying for the dead. Soul Cakes were bread usually marked with a cross, a bit like Day of the Dead bread. Will that be Soul Cakes for the kids round your neighbourhood this year then?
Trick or Treat
One tradition from the Middle Ages is the belief that not all the visiting souls were benign. Some were looking to wreak vengeance on their enemies. People wore masks to that they wouldn’t be recognised by these vengeful souls. So there’s the origins of Trick or Treat and Halloween costumes.
Lanterns were made to frighten away souls from homes of the innocent. And on the subject of lanterns: Here in the UK, before it was easy to get pumpkins, we made lanterns from turnips. Now that was hard work. While our US friends had easy access to pumpkins. Thank goodness for pumpkins!
Break out the Binbags
So, time to start making your Halloween costumes. Get out there with your binbag witches dresses, and your pumpkin lanterns (or turnips, go on, we challenge you!). Pray for some souls! Or just stay in and eat the kids’ chocolates.