Original Halloween traditions look nothing like the celebrations of today. Thousands of years ago, the Celtics, who inhabited Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, held the Festival of Samhain to mark the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of a new year, November 1. This was considered a time of death…the end of the growing season and a cold, dark winter ahead…and on the eve of the New Year (October 31) ghosts of the dead would revisit earth. Huge bonfires were lit for this pagan religious festival. Household fires were extinguished and then relit again with the flames of the bonfires. Over time adults and children would dress up in masks and costumes to “hide” from the ghosts who visited on October 31, and they would go door to door canvassing for food or money.
Halloween traditions began in North America in the 1920s only to be derailed during the “sugar ration” of WW11. After the war, the “Peanuts” comic strip featured Halloween storylines between October 29-31 which helped to popularize the celebrations we have today. Halloween is second only to Christmas in retail revenue in North America.
Customs used in Halloween decor today are reminiscent of those in history. Carved pumpkins resemble the carved out turnips (also lit with candles) that children carried during the Festival of Samhain. A haunted house today would not be complete without witches and black cats. Centuries ago, witches were believed to worship the devil and folklore suggests that they could magically turn into black cats to become undetectable. As in years long past, children and their parents dress in costumes to disguise their identity. The orange and black colour scheme represents fire from the bonfires and the darkness of the coming winter season.
As mentioned earlier, Halloween has become big business. As you walk or drive through your neighbourhood I’m sure you will notice that many of your neighbours have decorated their front yards and/or entries. I wish I could say that my front door looks as inviting as these shown above but, sadly, I can’t. My focus was on getting the garden ready for winter and time just got away from me. I will, however, have the front lights on with hopes that all the children in the neighbourhood will be out for an evening of fun.
Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween night and remember..if a treat is given then no trick will be carried out against the owner of the house!