Halloween – An Ancient Tradition

Children enjoying HalloweenWhy do we do it? Get dressed up, have parties and go trick or treating at Halloween. It’s great fun but what is the purpose of this spooky festival? And why is it important that we pass on this tradition to the next generation?

Well the origins of Halloween go way back and are deeply rooted in our collective psyche. If you go onto Wikipedia then you will find a full explanation of the origins of Halloween but basically it is an amalgamation of traditions from various parts of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. It takes in both pagan and Christian rituals going back millennia.

Some experts have linked it to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) which is held on or around the 31st October, marking the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. One of the beliefs from Celtic times was that the souls of the dead would revisit their homes and people would leave out food to make them feel welcome.

As you can see, Halloween isn’t an American import and neither is the ritual of Trick or Treat. This originates from various traditions. For example, in medieval times there was the practice of mumming and guising. Groups of people would go house to house performing plays (mumming) in costume (guising) in exchange for food.

In England people practiced the Christian tradition of souling where groups of people would wander from parish to parish begging the wealthy for soul cake in exchange for praying for the giver’s soul. And in Scotland and Ireland children would dress up and go from door to door asking for coins and food.

With mass migration to America the traditions of the immigrants went with them and developed. These have now come back across the Atlantic in a much commercialised form.

So, Halloween is a time for marking the end of one season and the beginning of the next, a time for remembering our ancestors and acknowledging death as well as being a time for making ritual for luck and good fortune throughout the darker months. It’s a festival that is deeply embedded in our history and will be around for a long time to come.

If you’re covering Halloween in your setting then check out our Halloween materials, our Pinterest page for ideas and our Halloween blog posts from previous years including one about printing pumpkins. Plus check out my article on making Halloween pictures from shapes.

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