The history of Halloween
What today seems to be a festival to promote the confectionery industry and costume hire, has deep roots, which sink into the autumn soil of Great Britain and Ireland.
The term Halloween comes from the Scottish variant of All Hallows’ Eve, properly “the evening of the Saints”. But it was a Pagan tradition, because this religious festival was typical of the Celts tradition long before the Romans arrived.
The Celtic calendar was divided into two periods: summer and winter, called Samhain, and the new year began on November 1st and welcomed with festivities.In fact, the typical Halloween colors are orange, which reflect the color of the autumn leaves and the harvest and the black reflecting the dye of the sky during the long winter evenings.
In addition to this “atmospheric” reason that marked the change of seasons and years, October 31 had a religious and occult value: between October 31 and November 1 the doors that divide us from the afterlife open, letting in the spirits that roam past the gates of life.
In Ireland, food was left on the graves of those who had died during the year.
Moreover, it was believed that during their short journey on Earth, the spirits kidnap people, especially children, to take with them once they returned to their otherworldly home.
From this fear comes the custom of masquerade: Halloween costumes served to make people appearance unpleasant and horrifying, in order not to be abducted by spirits. So the dressing up is to ward off the bad guys and not to join them- not what you might of thought !!!
When the Romans arrived in Britain, they brought with them their own traditions and their own religion, which would shortly become Christian; but as has often happened, many Christian festivities merged with the already existing pagan ones, taking their symbology and combining it to their own.The tradition of asking for sweets, in fact, is based on the medieval recurrence of travelers who asked for food in exchange for prayers for the dead of those who had offered them, something to eat and it fell right on the day of the dead.
But where does the tradition of lanterns made with pumpkins and the popular story of Jack O’Lantern come from?
The famous candle Jack O’ Lantern built to illuminate the road after being hunted both from Heaven and Hell was made with a turnip, but since this vegetable was not very popular in the USA, it was changed with the now famous pumpkin. Halloween has influenced many aspects of today’s culture, from music to fashion and has inspired characters like David Bowie with his Halloween Jack, Tim Burton, who made Halloween his kingdom, and the German power metal group “Helloween” and we can’t forget the “Halloween” movie saga with its ruthless protagonist Michael Myers, who has just returned to scare us at the cinema with the sequel of the first “Halloween”, directed by David Gordon Green, and the soundtrack by John Carpenter.
So, have yourself a good Halloween, dress up so you dont get abducted, have fun and try and stay out of trouble.
Words by Federica Diaz Splendiani