Halloween facts

by Jill Dixon

Think Halloween is a commercial invention dreamed up by a roomful of executives trying to unload masses of sweets? Think again! The roots of this occasion run deep in Gaelic history.

The festival of Samhain was an important time of year, marking the end of the harvest and the transition into winter. At the time people believed that this time of year was a meeting point for the world of the living and the world of the dead. People would wear masks and disguises, thought to please or imitate mischievous spirits.

Trick-or-treating is a modern take on this tradition, though originally children were asking for blessings rather than sweets and money!

The alternative spelling 'Hallowe’en' is based on the abbreviation of 'All Hallow’s Eve' – the eve of All Saints Day, which is the 1st of November. The modern tradition of carving a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern originated with the tradition of carving turnips to ward off evil spirits. In America, pumpkins had generally been associated with the celebration of harvest anyway, and pumpkins were obviously much easier to carve than turnips!

The prevalence of bats and insects in Halloween decoration is thought to be related to the bonfires that would have been lit when observing Samhain. Bonfires would attract insects which would in turn attract bats.

So now that you know some of the history behind it, you can embrace Halloween for the complex and enjoyable occasion it has become. Hurry up, you’ve only got a month left to plan your costume!

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