When did this festival begin?
What is known nowadays as Halloween Night was held more than 3000 years ago by the Celts, a warrior people who inhabited areas of Ireland, England, Scotland and France. Precisely on 31th of October, the Celts celebrated the end of the year with Samhain, a pagan festival.
When we speak about Halloween we can think about costumes, makeup, party, sweets and children, but the celebration was not always festive and cheerful, back In the day their night-time rituals were purifying and religious because they believed that it was in the dark that whisperings of new beginnings came to them.
It was with the European immigration of mainly Irish Catholics to the USA in 1846 that the Halloween tradition was introduced to the Americans.
How Halloween is celebrated in England?
This festival has been celebrated for centuries in England. It is celebrated in different ways and while many religious think that this festival is made for the purpose of worshiping the devil or demons, really it has become a date for children to dress up and have fun.
Depending where you are, you can see very different Halloween rituals, traditions and symbols such as: Processions, Bonfire Night is celebrated in the South of England and culminates in Lewes, Sussex on 5th of November.
The American version of Halloween is more popular, but the feast in England extends throughout the winter.
In the picture, a burning tar barrel rolls through the crowd at the festival of St Mary Ottery Tar Barrel, in Devon (Southwest), on November the 5th.
Punkie night is celebrated only in Hinton St George, Somerset (west) and is similar to Halloween. Jack’s lanterns (or Jack-o’-lantern) are carved into a kind of giant turnip and commemorates a dark night when women were searching for their drunk husbands with lanterns around the village.
On the 1st of November, Day of All Saints, short plays are displayed in Cheshire County (west). In the end, the actors give cakes out to people. This tradition comes from the medieval period when sweets were given to beggars in memory of the dead.
Ceremonies to ward off evil spirits are held in the orchards of southern England. In Worthing, West Sussex, branches of apple trees are bathed in cider and a gunman fires into the air.
In northern Allendale, Northumberland, disguised men loaded with barrels filled with burning tar. The festival is celebrated every 31st of December and dates back to the Middle Ages. In west Somerset and it other parts of the UK, one of the brightest festivals in the world is celebrated. It commemorates how Guy Fawkes, the Catholic conspirator was caught red handed by King James and guards causing Guy Fawkes to ultimately fail his plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London during the XVI century. During the winter solstice (21st December) some dancers and musicians with painted black faces arrive on boat in Beccles, Suffolk (East of England). There they performed a ritual with torches to light up the darkest day of the year and welcome the lengthening of the days again. This day is recognised as rebirth and this is why some extravagant dancing goes on the local public house in Beccles, Suffolk.
Where does ‘trick or treat’ come from?
The habit of asking for sweeties from door to door (trick-or-treating) became popular around 1930. Apparently, it does not come from the Celtic culture but it stems from a practice that emerged in Europe during the IX century called ‘souling’, a kind of service for souls. On November the 2nd, All Souls Day, early Christians went from village to village begging for ‘soul cakes’, which were pieces of bread with raisins. The more cakes the beggars would receive, the greater the number of prayer that would pray for the souls of their dead relatives. At that time it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after their death and prayers could expedite the entry of the soul to heaven. Unfortunately, kids nowadays have no idea and just do it for the candy.