Halloween or All Hallows Eve...
Updated: Oct 22
So, the shops are full of cheap Halloween goodies and the children are planning their outfits for Trick or Treat, that recent import from America. It is all a very long way from where the tradition began, being more concerned with witches and pumpkins than actual history; seen as a bit of innocent fun to lighten those creeping dark days of winter. Afterwards, we can step inside our cosy homes with electric lights, heating, well-stocked larders and other entertainments, and forget the original meaning of the festival that is almost as old as time.
Imagine then that you are a lowly Celtic peasant who by the end of Summer has cropped anything that can be harvested from mean little fields and hedgerows. There is no surplus to feed any large animals throughout the bleak coming months, so you hoard anything sustaining, slaughter surplus beasts and preserve of both what you can. A 'bonefire' is lit on the last day of October to mark this important transition from Summer to Winter. There is feasting and drinking but also an acute awareness that this is the closing of the productive year, marking a time between plenty and famine, and when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest.
Whilst our forebears were happy to celebrate their dead, they also imagined that evil roamed the land in the form of wicked witches, fairies, elves, goblins and the unsettled recently deceased, so lanterns were carved from turnips or pumpkins to scare them off. So terrified were they of recognition by those spirits that they smeared their faces with ash and otherwise disguised themselves. So, masked or 'guised', they were free to join the celebrations, revealing themselves only to any friendly ghost they recognised.
Samhain, (Summer's End) was the name of the Celtic festival our ancestors celebrated, while the new Christian religion that largely supplanted it renamed it All Hallows Eve, the night before All Hallows Day, (also called All Saints Day) on November 1st, which venerated all men and women canonised by the Catholic Church.
The following day, November 2nd in Christianity is All Souls Day and is an extension of the observance of All Saints' Day, remembering departed men and women of faith who were suffering in purgatory until cleansed of their sins before entering heaven.
So many cultures across the world share these sentiments and celebrate in different ways. It seems to me that honouring those who went before is no bad thing if undertaken in a spirit of love, gratitude and understanding.
Granny is rather fond of witches and has designed her own set of posters for you to collect.
There is an alphabetical selection and one or two more available at https://www.kittywitchcurios.co.uk