PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

Halloween, the witching night full of ghosts and magic

The end of October is here and the line between autumn and winter is more visible than ever. Cold and chilly nights and mornings, rainy weather or just the fact that it is getting darker earlier, are unmissable marks of the famous “winter is coming”. Though before that there is one last celebration or remembering of our beloved people, who are not with us anymore.

Curving pumpkins is one of the most common traditions on Halloween

Halloween – the time of celebration and superstition

The origin of this celebration is in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people used to light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

Samhain was celebrated by Celts in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, and it was also their New Year on November 1. This day was marked as the end of the harvest and summer, and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, which was very often associated with death. Celts used to believe, that the boundary between the worlds of the dead and the living became blurred, and the dead could return to the earth.

Samhain is well known as Celtic Festival 

To celebrate this event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. The Celts wore special costumes, consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

By 43 A. D, the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory and brought some of their own traditions into the celebration of Samhain. One of them was a day when they honored the Roman goddess of trees and fruit, Pomona. The symbol of her is the apple and this probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is part of today’s Halloween celebrations.

All Saint's Day is celebrated in most of Christian countries

Later, in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor and remember all saints and martyrs, nowadays known as All Saint’s Day. This day has some tradition common with the traditions of Samhain.  The evening before this celebration was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later as Halloween.

Halloween’s traditions

One of the most famous traditions of Halloween celebrations is definitely “trick-or-treating”, that dates back to the early All Saint’s or All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festival, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. Later this tradition was encouraged by the church and was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food and money.

Trick or treating is very popular especially with children

The tradition of wearing masks
has European and Celtic roots
The tradition of wearing masks has European and Celtic roots. On Halloween, when everybody believed, that the boundary between the worlds are blurred and ghosts can come back to the earth. People believed that they can confuse the ghosts, if they wear masks and are not recognizable. To protect their houses and keep ghosts out, people would place bowls of food outside their home to appease the ghosts. 

Another very popular tradition that has remained till now, is carving pumpkins and placing them on the window sill. This can help to keep your house safe against ghosts too.

Halloween superstitions

Halloween has always been full of magic and mystery. It began as a Celtic end of summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.

But many of the traditions used to focus more on the future and the living rather than the dead. Many traditions had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands. So, for example, in Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

If you would like to find your future husband, try some of the Halloween traditions

There are even many more traditions and superstitions as Halloween is probably one of the oldest celebrations. Nowadays it is more about costumes, masks and having parties especially for the youngsters. Though in some countries it is still more about the remembrance of our beloved friends and family members .

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About Peartree Languages

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.


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