It doesn’t seem like two minutes ago that I was writing the mid-summer blog and here we are now approaching Halloween and unlike the summer solstice, celebrations of Halloween are ever more popular and elaborate.
The word Halloween is a corruption of All Hallows Eve and precedes the Christian celebration of All Hallows Day or All Saints’ Day when all the saints in Christian history are celebrated.
In the Christian faith, All Hallows Eve was traditionally the day on which vigils were held when people gathered to ask for blessings and protection from evil prior to the celebrations and feasting of All Hallows Day.
Just as early Christians co-opted Pagan rituals of mid-summer to further the spread of Christianity; other Pagan rituals celebrated from sunset on the 31 of October to sunset on the 1st of November were also adopted then adapted by Christianity.
The Gaelic festival of Samhain is known to pre date Christianity and is a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
Many important events took place at Samhain; livestock was brought back from summer pastures for example and bonfires, deemed to have cleansing and protective powers, were lit. It was also a time when spirits and fairies could enter the world.
Samhain was also the time when the souls of the dead were thought to visit the world and feasts were held to entice them to join particular families. This lead to people going door–to-door in disguise, reciting poems in return for “spare” food.
I’ve yet to have a poem recited at my door but this sounds remarkably similar to our modern day practice of “Trick or Treating” and while the phrase “trick or treating” might have come to us from America, it would seem that the tradition itself is deeply rooted in British culture.
Wishing you all a happy Halloween and Half Term from The Playhouse Company.