As we approach the end of October there are two significant events that take place at this time of year. Firstly, this coming Saturday 28th the clocks will go back 1 hour overnight, to signify the end of British Summer Time. This does, of course, mean that we all get an extra hour in bed!
Then next week is one of the key celebrations to take place during the autumn period - on Tuesday 31st October, it’s Halloween. But what is the meaning of this annual celebration? In this article we are going to explore the background to Halloween.
What is Halloween?
Halloween is a global celebration which takes place on October 31st each year. It takes place on the eve before All Saints’ Day, beginning the observance of Allhallowtide. This period of time is when we remember the dead, particularly saints, martyrs and the faithful departed.
The celebration of Halloween is one of the biggest events of the year, where many people in their community decorate properties, hold parties and dress up in costumes.
What is the meaning of Halloween?
The meaning of the word ‘Halloween’ is a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, which means "hallowed evening".
The Halloween customs that originated in Britain, spread to North America in the 19th century and were combined with traditions coming from Germany as well as other parts of the world. The customs then spread to other countries to make this a global celebration enjoyed worldwide.
Halloween is now a multi-billion-pound industry where many people, particularly children, choose to dress in spooky costumes in honour of the haunted holiday, parading the streets trick-or-treating.
History of Halloween
Halloween originated in 5th century BC Britain and Ireland, on the full moon closest to November 1st. This is when the Celts celebrated the festival of Samhain - Summer's End, the Celtic New Year. Samhain was the god of the dead, and they believed that the barrier between the physical and the spirit world disappeared and that the spirits of the dead, good and evil, returned to earth.
These spirits would harm people if not offered gifts, such as food and drink, and sweet goods. People would often dress as spirits so that evil spirits would not recognize them. Both of these traditions provide the link to the customs of Halloween that we now celebrate today.
Christianity then spread to Celtic lands. During the 7th and 8th centuries, All Martyrs Day was designated as a time to honour all martyrs, saints, and relics as well. Then All Saints' Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain, and All Souls' Day came after All Saints' Day.
The All Saints' Day celebration was also known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and the night before it, the same night as Samhain, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween, from the 18th century onwards.
Popular Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into lanterns, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror or Halloween-themed films. Some people practise the Christian observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services.
However you choose to celebrate this year, we hope you have fun!