As I began to write this, on October 30th the night before the spirits celebrate with a selection of the spookiest songs playing through my earphones, I realised that although many of us may celebrate Halloween through trick or treating, carving pumpkins or dressing up in costume; it’s likely that the majority don’t even know it’s origins.
Halloween is believed to be first dated back to the Celtic invasion in 55 BC by the Romans under Julius Caesar. The Celts mainly followed the religion of Paganism, adopted certain religious practices and celebrated Pagan holidays such as Imbolc and Beltane. Paganism encompasses the belief in certain gods, and is made up of smaller groups like Wiccans, Druids and Shamans. Our modern-day Halloween is derived from the Paganism festival of Samhain which begins on the evening of October 31st and ends the following evening on November 1st. Samhain made way for the harvesting season and ancient documents recorded that it lasted for three days and three nights. The Samhain festival had many traditions such as lighting fires with wheels made to represent the sun, sacrificing cattle and igniting their fires with fire from the community bonfire.
However, overtime Halloween has also started to be celebrated by many, whether you’re Pagan, Christian or just want to fill your boots with candy for one night of the year; it’s a time that brings us humans closer together but also spirits too.
Halloween originates from ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, the last day of October’s calendar month where we remember the dead, whether that be saints, spirits or ghosts. Our current traditions range from dressing in costume, carving pumpkins, going trick or treating and visiting haunted houses. Very different from the old Celtic traditions.
Our modern tradition of carving pumpkins and placing them outside our doors stems from jack-o-lanterns, a lesser known Irish myth and a deal gone wrong with the Devil. As the stories told, when Jack tried to trick the Devil, God refused his admittance into heaven, so Jack was forced to roam Earth for forever. After the myth was told through early generations, Irish people began carving faces into turnips to frighten away Jack’s spirit. Eventually when Irish people emigrated to the United States, people continued the tradition of jack-o-lanterns with pumpkins which lead to the global tradition we have today.
But European countries are not the only ones to celebrate Halloween. Countries in South America such as Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia, celebrate Halloween with the Día De Los Muertos which translates to the ‘Day of The Dead’. The whole celebration lasts for three-days, ending on November 2nd and focuses primarily on honouring our loved ones and ancestors. Their traditions consist of decorating their houses which memorials made of flowers and candy to honour deceased relatives, lighting candles and incense in order to help the spirits find their way home and on the final day of November 2nd, families tidy relative’s graves and have picnics with them.
In Haiti, many celebrate ‘Fed Gede’, otherwise known as the ‘Festival of The Ancestors’, a popular Voodoo holiday and participate by lighting candles, visiting burial sites and drinking chili infused rum. Moreover, even though many Asian countries bespoke different religions, Buddhism has a similar festival to Halloween with The Hungry Ghost Festival, known to its followers as the Yulanpen Festival. Their traditions are similar to those in Latin America of burning incense and creating memorials but differ as those celebrating Yulanpen prepare food three times a day.
In conclusion, however you chose to celebrate Halloween (or even if you didn’t) whether that be through costumes, carving pumpkins, binging horror movies, or even if you danced manically to spooky songs – I hope you had a wonderful time!
Article by Young Reporter Beth Downes
First published in Grimsby Telegraph 10th November 2020