Do you remember the excitement of trick or treating, apple bobbing and carving pumpkin lanterns as a child? Today, Halloween celebrations have become increasingly commercialised, but behind all the parties and the hype, Halloween has it roots in Celtic, Pagan and Gaelic tradition.
Samhain and Calan Gaeaf are the Pagan and Welsh festivals that mark the end of the harvest season and the start of the darker half of the year; traditionally celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, about half way between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.
During these festivals, it is believed that the boundaries between our and other worlds are thinned and spirits, fairies and other supernatural beings can more easily cross over via portals and doorways that are open during this time. The spirits are traditionally both respected and feared with offerings of food or drink left outside to ensure both the people and livestock survive the harsher months of winter.
Bonfires were lit, the flames, smoke and ashes called upon to provide protective and cleansing power for homes and fields, the power of fire used to hold back the decay and darkness of winter. Jack’o’lanterns were carved with grotesque faces, placed on window sills outside and lit to represent spirits and supernatural beings, so as to ward off any evil spirits and protect the home.
The souls of the dead were traditionally believed to visit their former homes and efforts would be made to appease these souls on Halloween. Places at the dinner table were set, candles lit and prayers said. Household festivities would then begin with eating, drinking, games and rituals. People would dress up in costume, some said to disguise themselves from the spirits, others said to impersonate them and visit the houses of neighbours and friends to ask for food in exchange for good fortune, a ritual know as ‘guising’ and the origin of the modern day trick or treating.
So this Halloween when the doorbell rings, will you choose Trick or Treat? We encourage you to carve your own pumpkin and send us a photograph, there will be a special prize for one lucky carver!
Helen Smith, Trainee Yoga Teacher, TRH Office and Marketing Manager, C.Psychol, MSc