Halloween: a word which conjures up images of demons, goblins, witches, gouls, pumpkins carved out to form jack-O-lanterns, fancy dress parties and anything spooky which goes bump in the night. All these things are assembled under the annual celebrative umbrella of Halloween. But the origins of this event and its true meaning are just as confused as are the reasons why we choose to celebrate it at all.
When one goes back in time to around 1745 it’s discovered that “Hallowe’en” is of Christian origin and translates as “Saints evening” and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows). To delve even deeper, one can go back as far as the 9th Century to find pagan activities regarding Halloween.
Halloween is an ancient Celtic festival (pagan) called Samhain and came about because Pagans viewed the 31st of October as the one day in a year that the boundaries of the living and the dead overlapped.
In Medieval times the terms “mumming” and “going-a-souling” meant that people would dress up on Saints Day and All Souls Day then go about singing and dancing, play-acting and in general making mischief but with no law breaking.
Christianity has a divided opinion about Halloween. On one hand it’s celebrated as a harmless, light-hearted festival, and on the other, a satanic holiday established to worship evil spirits and inspire darkness and wickedness.
In more modern times Halloween is a pseudo fright night which borrows across all aspects of the known origins and reasons why the festival was founded in the first place but removing all the negative connotations attached to it. In some ways it’s a bit like the adaption and modification of Christmas, one doesn’t have to believe in Christ to celebrate it, but adding a spoonful of sugar (trick or treat) helps the medicine go down.
And lastly. On November 5th, we here in Britain are compelled by tradition to celebrate the capture and subsequent execution of one Guy Fawkes and co-conspirators after their plan (gunpowder plot) to blow up the Houses of Parliament were foiled. We call it firework night and across the country various firework displays are set up in parks and gardens to celebrate the fact that Fawkes was sentenced to death. Of course, these days, it’s all about the kids and their parents enjoying light shows in the night sky. The event itself shares much with Halloween in the sense that the origin of the story has nothing to do with why the event, today, is still practiced.
It’s all about the kids.