It is October 31st, when you see children dressed in spooky costumes, going from one house to the other, trick or treating for candy and sweets. Then you know that this day is Halloween- a time of superstitions and celebrations. It is a festival observed in Western countries and falls on the Eve of All Saints Day. Kids and adults attend costume parties, make lanterns out of big pumpkins, visit haunted locations, tell scary stories to each other, play pranks and also watch horror movies. People light bonfires to ward off all evil spirits and ghosts.
History behind Halloween
Halloween is also known as All Hallows’ Eve. Pope Gregory III, in the eighth century, assigned November 1st as a day to honor all saints and martyrs. This day was declared as a holiday and named as All Saints Day. The day before All Saints Day was known as Hallows’ Eve and later came to be known as Halloween.
Why do we celebrate Halloween?
The very early celebration of Halloween was seen amongst the Celtic people who lived in areas now known as Great Britain and Northern France. The Celts were people who worshipped nature especially the Sun God. They also worshipped a God named Samhain who was believed to be the Lord of the dead and cold winter season. They believed in the Vigil of Samhain which said that on October 31st all dead souls would be summoned by Samhain and would take the body of the animals and roam around the Earth. The priests of the Celtic people would then build large fires on hilltops in order to give strength to the Sun God and remove the darkness. They sacrificed animals and burned dried crops in order to help the Sun God. They believed that this ritual would help the Sun God to overcome the winter season and shine again. At midnight they would start worshipping Samhain. This day would start the beginning of New Year. The ember from the bonfire would then be taken by the people to burn firewood at their own homes in order to ward off evil spirits.
This culture continued until the Celts were captured by the Romans Catholics. The Romans brought with them their own traditions and costumes. They had declared November 1st as a holiday for all martyrs and saints to honor them. But witchcraft came into existence at that time and witches would come out on 31st October and perform their rituals. The superstitions and beliefs continued and this day was termed at All Hallows Day.
Symbols used in Halloween
- Over time many symbols came to be associated with Halloween to ward off evil spirits.
- The turnip was used in Ireland and Scotland.
- Pumpkins were used by natives in North America, now they are universally used.
- Corn husks and Scarecrows were also used to ward off evil.
- Black, Orange and Purple are traditional colors of Halloween.
Halloween for Children
Over time, Halloween has evolved into a community based, children friendly celebration. Activities like trick or treating, dressing up in various costumes and having Halloween theme based parties have now become the norm. Even adults become a participant in costume parties.
Trick or Treat has become customary for kids. Children, dressed in costumes, go from one house to another asking the question ‘Trick or treat?’ The treats given to children can be various candies, things to eat or sometimes money. Tricks would include the children playing some kind of mischievous prank on the owners of the house. Tricks would be done if the owners do not give any form of treat to the children.