What you didn’t know about Halloween
Ancient festival, trendy holiday or just an excuse to eat some sweets? Halloween is fast approaching
with a mixture of traditions, commerce and… weird costumes.
For centuries October 31 of every year has been associated with the celebration of All Hallows’
Eve. What may come as a surprise to some, Halloween is actually not an American holiday. It
originates from the Celtic festival Samhain, which marked the end of harvest season and also the
night when it was believed that spirits could come back to Earth. The same date later became part of
Christianity as a day to honour all saints and souls that still hadn’t reached heaven.
Rituals and traditions from both the Celtic and the Christian holiday soon blended together. Big
bonfires and dressing up as saints, devils and angels were part of the celebration.
As Americanised as the holiday is today, it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century
that Irish immigrants popularised it in the US. With them came the tradition of carving turnips and
putting candles in them, and because pumpkins were much more easily accessible in America,
people started making the jack-o’- lanterns we all know and love today.
Trick-or- treating, another beloved way to celebrate, actually came from something called souling –
in the eleventh century poor villagers would go door-to- door, begging for food. Families would give
them „Soul cakes“in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of their dead relatives.
Yet nowadays Halloween is a festival not that largely associated with the dead, but rather a
celebration of the living. Trick-or- treating, dressing up and carving pumpkins are only part of all the
fun and spooky activities people take part in on the 31st and the week leading to it.
Every year a wave of topical, original or simply weird Halloween costumes circulate on social
media and all the Halloween parties around the world. 2017 marks the time when Stephen King’s
Pennywise is reborn, and chances are, it will be the most popular disguise this year. Other thematic
costumes include Eleven from Netflix TV series Stranger Things, Wonder Woman, Daenerys
Targaryen and the dancing hot dog from the Snapchat filter.
Although the majority of people who celebrate All Hallows’ Eve nowadays do not really understand
its origins and traditions, the day is still largely popular. Why? Perhaps it is the spookiness of it, or
its quirky rituals – or maybe it is the chance to disguise yourself as someone else, if only for a night.
For all we know, the dead might not come back to Earth, but Halloween certainly isn’t dying