What are your thoughts on Halloween?
Do you think of it as part of a Celtic festival long forgotten or a reason to party well into the night?
These days a typical festive Halloween activities include trick or treating, attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins, lighting bonfire and fireworks, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories and or watching horror films. All these and more seem to be the normal these days.
In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, these remain popular; although in other locations these solemn customs are less pronounced in favor of a more commercialized and secularized celebration. Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although most no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows' Eve, the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods was developed including the consumption of apples, cider, potato pancakes, and of course soul cakes.
Soul cakes come from the Celtic festival of Samhain, more commonly known today as All Hallows Eve or Halloween. Soul cakes were baked and left on the porch with a glass of milk or wine, for the dearly departed. On All Hallows Day, Nov 1, traditionally children and the poor would perform, sing or pray for the dead to earn the treat of the Soul cake, which evolved into the modern day version of trick or treating.
So why the 31st October? All Hallows day being the 1st Nov People would celebrate this day as a spiritual beginning of a new year. Ancient people believed that ghosts came back to earth on the night before i.e. the 31st. It is said that on this day, the spirits of the dead come back to earth in search of living bodies to possess for the next year and try to return to the homes where they were living. So to appease these spirits, people offer them, fruits and nuts. If the spirits are not pleased, it is feared that the spirits would kill the people or destroy their property.
The various activities done in Halloween are mostly associated with the idea to obtain good fortune. You give to others, where its soul cakes, fruits or nuts, it’s the act of giving that brings the good luck as the spirits leave you alone.
Here in wales as a child we didn’t do much for Halloween in fact it was more like the autumn harvest festival, my Nan would bake and we would celebrate with nice foods to eat, she would put out the soul cakes and milk on the door step, but I never knew who they were for, a bit like putting out milk and biscuits for Father Christmas. While still school age we moved to England, and living not far from an American air base I soon learnt about Halloween. My new American friends told me lots of scary tails, and on the evening of Halloween help dress my sisters and me to go around the doors trick or treating.
How where we lived was a sergeant in the American air force, he scary all us children and half the grownups in our area no matter what day it was. We came to his door, somehow it was agreed I was the one to knock the door while the others hide behind the bins, I was told to say “trick or treat”. My heart was racing, but up the steps I went knock on door, I jump down the steps and waited on the path. I could hear him coming, than the door opened. He looked bigger looking down on me and roar “what you want” not sure how but I got out “trick or treat” and to my surprise this great big man fall on his knees, begging and crying all at once, I remember hearing , no trick please I’ll treat you, please no trick. He piled my sack with candy, money and small toys. I couldn’t get over it. That was my first Halloween trick and treating. When home on holidays I told my Nan, she told me why some people is really scary at Halloween time, how they believe the that ghosts came back to earth and the spirits of the dead looking for body’s to claim. I never really liked Halloween after that; I wanted to go back to the way my Nan did it a celebration with family, friends and nice food.
So whatever you are doing for Halloween, enjoy, do it safely.