Last week on a trip to our grocery store, several Halloween displays had Hunter and Charlotte overhwelmed with excitement. "Look at the cobwebs!", "The spiders!", "The ghosts!" they exclaimed as we waited for the fishmonger to wrap our salmon.
Before the trip to the store we hadn't spoken of Halloween. H and I had made several Halloween crafts in previous years but the sense of what Halloween was had been lost on him. Now, both children were intent on understanding why candy was such an important part of Halloween. So I did a little research in an effort to make sure they understood that 31 October wasn't simply about scoring a sugar hit. Here's what I found:
The origins for Halloween seem to come from more than one source. The Celtic festival of Samhain, which was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was seen as the time when the door to the 'other world' was opened and souls of the dead and fairies could come into our world.
Halloween is also influenced by the Christian All Saint's Day (also known as All Hallows) on 1 November and All Soul's Day on 2 November. It was a time for honouring the saints and praying that the recently departed reched Heaven.
The custom of wearing costumes has been linked to All Saints and All Souls Day by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote:
"It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognised by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities."
Interesting, no? We'll be celebrating Halloween this year (sweets and all) but I'm interested to hear whether you will.
Will you celebrate and if you will do your children know the origins of Halloween? Or are the origins unimportant?
[As an aside, how cool are the chicken wire ghosts pictured above?! They would look wonderfulscattered throughout a misty field. You can find DIY instructions here.]