So are you Tricking or Treating this October 31st?
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s about time to stock up on your candies and carve out wonky faces on your pumpkins to scare away the evil spirits, as they say! Halloween is believed to have its origins in the ancient lands of Celtic Ireland during the time of “Samhain” (pronounced as “Saw-Een”) which was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). It was the celebration of the end of harvest season in Ireland and the beginning of the Celtic New Year on November 1.
It is an event occurring on the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day which is also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas thus giving it the name of All Hallows’ Eve, literally meaning the evening All Hallows’ Day.
It was believed that during the time of Samhain, the division between the humanly world and the other world was at its thinnest, thus allowing spirits to pass through. Hence, Halloween that originated nearly 2000 years ago, dictates the tradition of building huge bonfires in fields and the pathways leading to the houses of people. This was done to drive away the evil spirits that lurked in the dark evening shadows of the fields of the Celts.
Another tradition is the belief that during the night of November 1, demons, witches, and evil spirits freely roamed the earth with joy to greet the arrival of "their season" that is the long nights and early dark of the winter months. The demons had their fun with poor mortals that night, frightening, harming, and even playing all kinds of mean tricks on them. The only way, it seemed, for scared humans to escape the wrath of the demons was to offer them things they liked, especially fancy foods and sweets. Or, in order to escape the fury of these horrible creatures, a human could disguise himself as one of them and join in their roaming. In this way they would recognize the human as a demon or witch and the human would not be bothered that night.
Whilst harmful spirits were warded off, the spirits of the family's ancestors were honoured and invited home to bless the members of the family. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Now this was the Pagan tradition.
Things took a slight turn in view if the Roman invasion. By the end of the first century, the Romans had captured and conquered Britain and much of Europe. Over the span of nearly four hundred years of their reign, many of their festivals were combined with those of the Samhain. The occasion of Feralia, that signifies a day of honouring the dead, much alike the occasion of Allhallows’Eve.
As time took its course, the Christians fused this event of honouring the dead with concepts of celebration of the feasts on the All Hallows’ Eve. Consequently, November 1st came to be popularly known as the “All Saints’ Day.” This new festival was an hour to honour the lives of all saints and martyrs. Everyone would recite pray for souls that had not yet reached the doorway to heaven, and the poor would beg for 'soul cakes' in exchange for praying for the souls of relatives.
And yet, till today, the controversial debate still exists whether the festival of Halloween is of Christian or Pagan origin. Despite all the folklore that surrounds Halloween, correctly spelt as Hallowe’en, carved pumpkins, mighty feasts, apple bobbing games and tricking or treating, which originally began as “souling,” when children would go door-to-door on Halloween, with soul cakes, singing and saying prayers for the dead, mark the coming of this joyous yet somewhat dark festival.
Today costumes take the place of disguises and candy has replaced fruits and other fancy foods as children go door-to-door trick-or-treating. Costumes have become adventurous - in Victorian ages, they were influenced by gothic themes in literature, and dressed as bats and ghosts or what seemed exotic, such as an Egyptian pharoah. Later, costumes became influenced by pop culture, and became more sexualised in the 1970s. Over the course of history Halloween’s visible practices have changed with the culture of the day, but the purpose of honoring the dead, veiled in fun and festivities, has remained the same.
With all the recent glamour that is associated with Halloween, and the big Halloween parties that you are invited to, it comes as no surprise that the retail industry (from candy to costumes and decoration) in the UK and USA grossly make around £ 20 million! Be it celebrities like Heidi Klum with clones of herself or Adele dressed as The Mask, in 2016, Hallowe’en grows on all!