Halloween. I love it. Apart from Christmas it’s my favourite celebration. I have celebrated it since having my kids. I wish I would have known about it when I was a kid and I would have walked around the neighbourhood in one of my mum’s sheets asking for lollies! Mistakenly, it’s seen as an American tradition. It wasn’t really till the 1930’s that mass produced costumes and the trick or treating for lollies started in the USA. It was noted earlier in 1911 that children would go out ‘mumming’. The idea to go ‘mumming’ came from the large scale of Scottish immigration and bringing with them this tradition when celebrating All Hallows Eve.
Halloween or All Hallows Eve has always been a celebration for the dead. Since the 6th century, Christians have held three day celebrations to remember the saints, the martyred and the faithful followers who have died. All Hallows Eve like Christmas Eve was a pre celebration day to All Hallows Day and All Saints Day. The tradition of going door to door in Christianity is based on receiving soul cakes, that were baked to remember the dead in exchange for praying for those departed. This was called ‘going a souling’.
Christian traditions involved a lot of prayer. In rural English communities, people partied. They did ‘mumming’. Mumming was dressing up, singing and dancing and having a great time. In the 16th Century people started going around reciting poems and songs while dressed up in exchange for food. Going around in the dark and bumping into each other gave them the idea of a jack-o-lantern, although originally they were made out of turnips. The idea of dressing up in costumes that were scary or satanic is due to the belief that spirits that could rise only one day in the year on October 31 and to scare the spirits away you had to be scarier than them.
On All Hallows Eve, no meat was to be consumed so many vegetables became associated with the event. Apples and pumpkin being the most popular as they were regularly harvested around that time. Games such as bobbing for apples was a traditional English game where the first person to bite into the bobbing apples was predicted to be the next to marry. Although initially lanterns were carved from potato’s and turnips, Americans now breed huge perfectly shaped pumpkins for their tradition of pumpkin carving. Candy became popular after World War Two. As there was rationing from the war the idea to freely give candy to the kids after the war was a way to encourage Halloween as a happy tradition for the children to enjoy.
In France people would go to the graveyard of their ancestors and pray, leaving them a dish of milk. In Spain, special pastries, called the bones of the holy are baked and taken to the graves and then left there while they go on to a church service. In Poland, people walk through the forests reciting prayers to give peace to the spirits. Many countries in their own way, have always celebrated Halloween. It seems that the United States has taken the tradition and embraced it. But Halloween is slowly creeping into Australia, one little spidery leg at a time. Enjoy!
Tell us how you celebrate Halloween?