Recently my youngest son has been pestering me about going trick & treating, I have to admit I am not a great fan of this recent import from America and is something I managed to avoid with my two older sons; but like most younger brothers he is a persistent little so and so. This has made me look harder into the the traditions of the British Halloween so that i could have a more informed debate over the subject with him.
If we look back into its Celtic origins when Hallows Eve was the festival of Samhain which was a celebration of the end of their year, their Summer, their successful harvests and the beginning of their new Year. The Celtic festival of Samhain is where people would light bonfires, dressing up in costumes and dance in the bonfires light to ward off ghosts.
This was because they knew that this was the beginning of dark nights and a cold winter. On this particular night, the barriers between the living and dead could wear thin and allow the ghosts to pass through and could prove dangerous to them.
By burning fires,the Druids and Priests, dressed in animal skins, were able to foretell the future and make predictions. After the fire had died out they would re-light their hearth fires which offered them protection against the bitter winter.
Halloween came in to our Christian lives through Pope George III as he designated that November 1st should be a time to honour the Saints incorporating some of the traditions from the Night of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. As the years have rolled by , Halloween has evolved into a commercial day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving pumkins, and dressing up in costumes for parties etc.
Throughout history all countries have their own traditions associated with this special night. Maybe this Halloween we should take a step back and be thankful for the past year; by lighting a bonfire or candle, meditating or celebrating our loved ones that have passed.
And thus making Halloween a little more traditional and a little less commercial.