The roots of Halloween go back centuries. Today Halloween is often treated as a fun family festival, however, the festival itself has significant symbolic meaning.
- The roots of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celts (from c.450 BC to the Roman Conquests) and their Pagan festival of Samhain. This celebration marked the end of the third and final harvest (of nuts). It also marks the beginning of the darker part of the year (winter). It is celebrated (still to this day by modern pagans) on 31st October until 1st November.
- At the celebration of Samhain, the Celts would wear costumes to scare away the demons who lurked during this festival.
- In an effort to compete with this pagan festival, the Christian Church designated 1st November as All Saints Day and 31st October as All Hallows Eve (Hallow translates as to make something holy).
- Legend has it that if you wear your clothes inside out and walk backwards on Halloween, you will see a witch at midnight.
- Black cats, bats and spiders were associated with witches in the medieval period and, as a result, have become symbolic of this spooky festival.
- Trick or treating originates from Samhain; Celts would leave out treats to appease the spirits who wandered amongst them during this celebration.
- The fear of Halloween is called Samhainophobia.
- Traditionally, turnips rather than pumpkins were carved.
- The association between Halloween and vegetables finds its roots in a Celtic folk tale. A man named Jack tried to trick the devil. As punishment, the devil cursed Jack to wander the earth in a state of purgatory, he was given a burning lump of coal from hell. He placed this inside a turnip to light his way. Hence the phrase ‘Jack O’Lantern’.
- Carving a pumpkin (or a turnip) is then supposed to scare away spirits (such as Jack).
- The traditional Halloween colours of black and orange are symbolic; orange is associated with the harvest whereas black has strong connections to death (again linking back to the festival of Samhain).
- In Germany, it is tradition to hide all the knives in the house during Halloween, for fear that any returning spirits might injure themselves.
- To see a spider on Halloween is said to be a sign that your deceased loved one is watching over you.