By Jennifer Popplewell •
Published: 31 Oct 2023 • 9:00
Credit: Toby Ord, Wikipedia
With the sudden change in weather feeling positively witchy, it seems that the stormy stage for this haunted holiday has been set here in Spain.
The modern day Halloween, which is celebrated on October 31 around the world, holds its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a Gaelic word pronounced “SAH-win”. This pagan festival was held around November 1, a date that marked the transition from the autumn harvest season to the darker days of winter. It is around this time of the year that it was believed – and is still believed for many who continue to honour Samhain – that the veil between the land of the living and the depths of the dead is at its most thin. A time where the souls of the deceased revisited the earthly realm and roamed it freely with unknown intentions. Feasts were held, where places were set and food was offered to departed souls of family members. The pagan gods were also honoured, with offerings of drink and livestock in a bid to appease them and ensure that their animals survived throughout the wretched winter. There were also sacred bonfires that burned throughout the night of Samhain, as they were believed to have special cleansing and protecting powers.
As Christianity swept through Europe and The Isles, traditional pagan celebrations were viciously repressed by the church and its enforcers. In the 9th century the western church endorsed November 1 as the date of All Saints’ Day. In part, this was to present this time of year as one of love rather than ‘superstitious’ fear, stressing that those who die in Christ have their souls forever in the loving family of God. However, the oppression against any contradicting beliefs to the new religion, especially those of the pagan gods, was intense in this period, and by creating a new celebration on this date it intended to secure the complete eradication of Samhain and its ‘radical’ beliefs.
Today, Halloween is celebrated as a fun-filled festival where children and adults alike dress up in costumes, carve pumpkins, go trick-or-treating, tell scary stories and eat copious amounts of sweets. But these modern customs are all deeply steeped in spiritual traditions. For example, the idea of ‘trick or treating’ comes from the door to door travelling of the poor, who would beg for food in return for songs and prayers. This was referred to as ‘souling’ and the children were called ‘soulers’. A typical food given to these soulers was a “soul cake”, with a holy cross marked on top that represented a soul being freed when it was eaten. These were sweet treats, made with ginger, raisins and nutmeg. The creepy costumes that modern celebrators wear on Halloween come from the ancient desire to hide a person’s attendance at pagan festivals or to mask the energy of the wearer to allow for better communication with the spirit world. Costumes were also sometimes used to ward off evil spirits from entering the body.
Thankfully society is now much more accepting of different beliefs and so all are free to celebrate Halloween loud and proud, with many religious people of varied ideas still enjoying this frightening festival!
Whatever way you choose to celebrate, Euro Weekly News wishes all a weird and wonderful night, with many happy hauntings!
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Jennifer is a proud northerner from Sheffield, England, who is currently living in Spain. She loves swimming in rivers, talking to the stars and eating luxurious chocolate.
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