As I start to plan my hotdog costume for Halloween on Saturday, I begin to consider what the history of the festival is and how on earth hotdogs are related to it. Well, in short, they’re not; but then how has Halloween developed over the years to allow me to go to a party this weekend dressed as fast food!? Today, the celebrations have clearly become westernised as well as commercialised, particularly in the USA where it is now the holiday that makes the most money after Christmas. As well as dressing up, these days we’re used to haunted houses, pumpkins, scary face paint and trick-or-treating (when children knock on neighbours’ doors either to demand a treat – usually chocolate and sweets – or else threatening to play a trick or a prank on them).
However, the Halloween we know today actually originates from as long as 2,000 years ago from a festival called Samhain. This was celebrated on 1st November by the Celts who lived in Britain and northern France. The evening before, it was believed that the dead would return, and as a result people would wear disguises as ghosts to trick the real ghosts into thinking they were not alive. In the 8th century this festival became known as All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, and the night before called All Hallows’ Eve, which is where the current name Halloween comes from.
Trick-or-treating originates from several traditions in medieval Britain on the festival All Souls’ Day that were taken to America by British immigrants in the 19th century. These traditions included poor people begging for food known as soul cakes, in return for agreeing to pray for the dead; or young people dressing up and offering entertainment such as singing in order to receive gifts of money, food or drink. Other rituals included superstitious games that related to women finding themselves husbands, these games often involving food.
So nowadays, although my Halloween experience will also involve food (of course via my costume), our celebrations have clearly come a long way from the traditions of 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, we can recognise many similarities that explain some of the stranger aspects of Halloween, and of course the history helps to remind us what Halloween is really about.
Information from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
Do you celebrate Halloween?