Posted on 31st October 2012
I adore Hallowe’en and always have. Sweets, dressing up, fireworks and playing games; what more could you ask for on a chilly autumn evening?
Hallowe’en is always celebrated on October 31st, but there are many debates over its origins. Some people believe that it descends from the Roman feast of Pomona (Pomona was the goddess of fruits and seeds) or Parentalia (which was the festival of the dead), however the general consensus is that it is linked to a Celtic festival called ‘Samhain’ (which means ‘summer’s end’). ‘Hallowe’en’ itself comes from the Scottish ‘all-hallows-even’ (the night before All Hallows Day). The word ‘Hallowe’en’ or ‘Halloween’ came into use in the 16th century.
One of the objects most strongly associated with Hallowe’en is the carved pumpkin. Traditionally Scottish and Irish participants of the festival would carve turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory. Immigrants to North America started replacing turnips with pumpkins as they were more readily available and easier to carve than turnips. It’s funny to think that if it wasn’t for those resourceful Americans, we might still be decorating our houses with turnips!
For many children, the highlight of Hallowe’en is trick-or-treating when they get dressed up and go in search of sweets. The ‘trick’ is there because traditionally children would perform a song or some kind of trick in order to earn their sweets, although I’m not sure how often that happens now. As you’ve probably gathered so far, Hallowe’en has become a bit of a hodgepodge of different celebrations and beliefs and trick-or-treating is no exception. In the middle-ages people would dress up and go begging from door to door on Hallowmas (1st November), asking for food in return for offering to say prayers for the dead on All Soul’s Day (November 2nd). Similar practices are also found in Italy and in Shakespeare’s ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ the character Speed accuses his master of ‘puling like a beggar on Hallowmas’.
Apples have also become integral to Hallowe’en celebrations; apple-bobbing is a popular game at parties and toffee-apples are a favourite Hallowe’en treat.
Hallowe’en is massive business here in the UK and in the USA and after Christmas and Easter, it is the public celebration that makes the most money here in Britain (somewhere in the region of £300 million pounds). If you look in shops and supermarkets this weekend you should see loads of Hallowe’en related food, decorations and costumes.
Whatever you’re doing this Hallowe’en, we hope you have a great time. Finally, remember that if you are going out trick-or-treating make sure you are accompanied by an adult and that you only visit houses where you know the people who live there.