Today is the spookiest day in the calendar – Halloween. Nearly all children and many adults will be in ghoulish make up and out and about tonight either trick or treating, or entertaining themselves at some description of spooky shindig. There’s an important question about it all, though – why do we celebrate Halloween in the first place?
Halloween actually began as a Celtic festival in the UK
It seems that the celebration of Halloween can be traced back to the United Kingdom. At the end of each summer Celts would celebrate the festival of Samhain, which literally means ‘summer’s end’. If it seems odd to celebrate the end of summer on the final day of October, Celts only really had two seasons, summer and winter.
Celts also considered that winter – when nights become longer and darker – saw evil spirits rise and begin to do dastardly things. Christians held a similar ‘celebration’ of those whom had passed, naming November 1 as ‘All Saint’s Day’. They also held a feast to pray for the souls of the dead on October 31, which was known as ‘All Hallow’s Evening’. In time, this became truncated to ‘Halloween’.
Trick or Treating began in the UK too, contrary to popular belief
‘Trick or Treating’ began in the UK too. In ancient times people would dress up as ghouls to fool the real ghosts. They would also leave food outside their homes as offerings so the evil spirits would leave them alone.
People began going from door to door asking for extra provisions, a ritual known as ‘mumming’. If no provisions were given, the ‘spirits’ would show their displeasure by playing a trick instead.
This practice died out in the UK by the end of the nineteen century, but became popular in the USA as a ritual for children to gain candy. Thanks to the influx of US TV in the UK, ‘trick or treating’ made its way back over the pond in the 1990s, and has become something that British children look forwards to every year.