Spooktober: All About Samhuinn/Halloween
October has officially begun and with that many people all over the world are gearing up for the spookiest celebration of the year: Halloween. But what many people perhaps don't realise while they are picking out their perfect costume, is that there is more to this holiday than costumes, pumpkins with creepy carved in faces and guising.
What Is Halloween and Who Created It?
The celebration of ''Halloween'' or Samhuinn which is the Scottish Gaelic spelling meaning ''summers end'', was originally created by the ancient Celtic people who celebrated between the 31st of October and the 1st of November of the Gaelic calendar.
This date marks the end of our summer months and the beginning of our winter. Not only that, but during this time the Celts believed that the veil between our world, the world of the living and the world of the dead became penetrable allowing those restless spirits from the other side to walk among us for one night inducing fear and causing chaos if not appeased by the people.
As you can imagine it was not just the spirits of humans that were free to pass over during this time but also those of a more menacing nature. This belief is what led to many of the traditional customs we still practice all over the world today.
Traditional Customs And Why We Do Them
Trick or Treating, or Guising to those of us who live in Scotland is the very exciting and rewarding practice of knocking on neighbours doors and asking for them to add to your bucket/bag of treats. Though it's definitely a great way to stock up on your sweet collection, that's not really why the tradition started.
The treats are thought to represent the offerings given by locals to the wandering spirits that roamed our world and needed to be appeased.
During the Middle Ages the poor would go around the local houses asking for food, drink or money from their neighbours and in return they would speak a prayer for the souls of the dead.
Fancy Dress Costumes
Dressing up is probably the most important part of Halloween for most people. As fun as it is to be your favourite spooky monster for a day or character this wasn't the basis for dressing up.
It was believed that if we left the safety of our homes during the evening of Samhuinn (Halloween) whilst the spirits were free to walk among us, we would be recognised as humans. To prevent this, people started to wear masks in the hopes that they would be mistaken for fellow spirits.
Have you ever found yourself wondering why everything related to Halloween is always orange and black? Maybe you haven't, but as much as I love the aesthetic it's something that's always intrigued me. Again these bold colours can be traced all the way back the the traditional Samhuinn festival with ''black'' representing death and ''orange'' symbolising the autumn harvest season.
Jack O' Lanterns
The Jack O' Lantern comes from The Legend of Stingy Jack. Though pumpkins are what are more commonly used today for the making of Jack O' Lanterns, turnips were at one point used just as equally. The intention was to ward off wandering spirits or Stingy Jack from entering the homes of locals.
Bobbing For Apples
Though bobbing for apples is a common party game played at most Halloween parties, it originally had no connection. The game was originally part of the Roman Festival of Panoma (Goddess of Agriculture and Abundance) which was introduced and combined with our Halloween festivities when the Romans conquered the British Isles.
With the 30th of October being known as ''Devils Night'' part of the pre-Halloween tradition encouraged playing and amiable amounts of mischief on family and friends. Unfortunately this tradition is often taken to extremes and large amounts of damage to public and personal property occurs annually because of this.
I hope that you have enjoyed this article and that it has given you a little more knowledge and insight into the history behind the Halloween that we are familiar with today. As always I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this article in the comments section below and if you have any plans for this years Halloween or have a favourite tradition please feel free to share them!
Do You Love Halloween?
Did you learn anything new through reading this article?
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