With Halloween traditions, many things can happen. Sometimes they have significance to them that means even more. These traditions and beliefs, are considered sacred. In some cultures, these rituals are used to ward off any lingering spirits or sometimes to return them back to life.
Things have certainly changed for celebrating Halloween, which dates back to more than several thousand years ago. Originating as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve, this holiday has become a time and place where goblins go bump in the night for all.
The Halloween culture, is celebrated and has since become part of folklore and beliefs in Celtic-speaking countries all around the world. This festival was once established as the Celtic Samhain festival.
The beginning started with just a few people and then quickly grew into something more, back on November 1st. It was the first day of the Celtic New Year. Transcending between both the new and the old, the Celts believed that the souls of the dead and any evil spirits could rise into the living world.
It is believed that in today’s world, Halloween customs have been influenced by different folk customs and beliefs from Celtic-speaking countries. Some of these, were believed to have had pagan type roots. Known as Samhain, it was the first and foremost important four quarter day in the medieval Gaelic calendar. The days of celebration were between October 31st until November 1st. This happened initially in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Perhaps the following, are some of the most unusual traditions which stand out for the Halloween holiday celebration. The Scottish tradition of ‘guising’ goes back to Samhain. This is when people use masks and decorations, to disguise themselves scaring away any evil spirits.
Even nowadays, people dress up in costumes – becoming whatever their heart desires for an evening letting loose from normalcy. Not only do children dress up, but adults equally free their spirit becoming whatever they desire. It seems that Halloween, has since become a favorite among the masses in today’s world.
Also in Scotland, people will peel an apple into one long strip, turning it into a snake of skin. After this, they will place it on their shoulder letting it travel down their back. The shape the skin falls into – will give them a glance into their future, as it will form the very first letter of the person they will soon marry.
In Italy, the Italians celebrate Halloween with food. The tradition involves them cooking up Beans of the Dead. These are shaped like cookies and are made from cinnamon and other ingredients. They are almond lemon flavored sugar cookies.
This Italian tradition, comes from The Day of Saints. Also known as All Hallows Day and Solemnity/Feast of All Saints. They are offered to honor the dead and feed them on our world, so they they may continue into the next.
The use of pumpkins also manifested in places like Italy and Ireland. In these places, children would place an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits. In Calabria, Italy, children carved pumpkins into the shape of skulls after wandering the streets asking “Will you pay me for the skull?” Other traditions include places like Sardinia, a large Italian island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is here where children would ask people to do good, for the souls of the dead. They would say: “Will you make the little souls?” as well as make gifts for the dead.
“The term jack-o’-lantern, was originally used to describe the visual phenomenon ignis fatuus “foolish fire” known as a will-o’-the-wisp in English folklore. It was predominately used in the Eastern part of England. The earliest record, dates back to the 1660’s. The term “will-o’-the-wisp” uses “wisp” (a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch) and the proper name “Will”: thus, “Will-of-the-torch.” The term jack-o’-lantern is of the same construction: “Jack of [the] lantern.”
In Germany, during the All Saints’ Day celebration, a peculiar celebration takes place. This takes place between October 30th until November 8th. It is also known as Seelenwoche “All Souls Week”. During this time, kitchen knives are hidden in graveyards while visiting deceased loved ones. This is done in hopes of warding off any malicious spirits upon their return. Also, so any friendly spirits aren’t injured upon their return as well.
In Poland, an All Saints’ Day tradition, involves leaving all the windows and the doors open. This is done to welcome any wandering and lost spirits into their home. With hopes to receive good blessings, these people only want to be friendly towards the spirits of the dead. Perhaps good karma will come their way. Likewise, if people don’t leave their windows and doors open during this time, bad things may come their way instead.
Located in England, another tradition takes place known as “Punkie Night”. This Westcountry custom is held on the last Thursday of October. In relation to Halloween in Somerset children will wander around with a jack o’lantern, singing a song which goes :
It’s Punkie Night tonight
It’s Punkie Night tonight
Adam and Eve would not believe
It’s Punkie Night tonight
Other variations include:
“Give me a candle, give me a light If you don’t, you’ll get a fright.” or “Give me a candle give me light If you haven’t a candle, a penny’s all right.”
Austrians have a tradition, that involves leaving out both bread and water during All Saints’ Day. This is done, to welcome the spirits back from the dead to their lost loved ones. A lit lantern is also used to guide the souls back home during the hours of the night as well.
Another pagan Celtic tradition In Ireland involves food. This time, it is fruitcake known as Barmbrack that is used. This fruitcake bread, is made from raisins, fruits and wrapped in cloth. If you bite down and feel cloth, then pull back as your fortune may be told. Other things are placed inside the fruitcake including rings. If someone discovers this while eating, then romance is soon to follow. If a coin is found, then wealth is on its way. Finding a thimble, spells doom for some and happiness for others.
The Czechs have a Halloween tradition where families gather around a burning campfire. They share stories with one another about those who have passed and those who are still living. Halloween night is best known as the Commemoration of All the Departed. Chairs are placed around the campfire and filled with family while others are left empty where the spirits may sit. With the stories shared, the spirits can share in on the festivities.
Traditionally, celebrated in the United States, are trick or treaters who both dress up in costumes and wander from door to door asking for candy treats. If they don’t get any, then the persons home may well become vulnerable to a trick such as toilet papering their home, yard and bushes. They may even get their door egged. Mostly, the larger amount of trick or treaters are small children.
These children will wear their costumes to show off their talents in order to earn themselves some candy. Sometimes these children will sing and dance for a treat or demonstrate some other skill like joke telling. There are so many types of celebrations and with them comes fun and wonderment. Halloween is also believed to be the strongest point – for both good and evil to linger within in our world. Watch out! Because you never know what might be lurking during the day of the dead and the gobbling goblins of the night.