08/08/2012 09:22

Halloween around the world is a traditional holiday that is considered one of the oldest in history.

Halloween is held annually on October 31st. It was developed from ancient new year festivals and festivals of the dead. Combining Christian customs and Druid autumn festivals. (Druids were a Celtic religious order of priests and sooth sayers in ancient Britain, Ireland and France.)

The celebration Historically marked the beginning of the season of cold, darkness and decay which is a time associated with death. Later when pagan customs became part of this Christian holy day, the Christian church established All Saints' Day, which is held on November 1st. The church then began to honour the dead on All Souls' Day, held on November 2nd.

All Saints' Day used to be known as All Hallows (Hallow being an old word meaning Saint) The feast day actually started the previous evening, the Eve of All Hallows or Hallowe'en. All Saints' Day, together with All Souls' Day are known collectively as Hallowtide.

It was believed that All Souls' night when the dead revisited their homes, so lit candles were left out to guide them and meals and wine were left as refreshment.

On Hallowe'en the thing you must do
Is pretend that nothing can frighten you
And if somethin' scares you and you want to run
Just let on like it's Hallowe'en fun.

Trick-or-treating started in Ireland and Britain with something called souling. During the 19th and 20th centuries children would go 'souling' - The poor and children would say prayers for the deceased and sing, and in return people would give out 'soul cakes'. If no treats were offered, beggars or souls played pranks. Traditionally each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. (Purgatory is a place where souls are temporarily punished for venial sins. Afterwards they are permitted to move on to heaven.)

 Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.

Read more on souling and soul cakes

It wasn't until the 1800s that Halloween celebrations began popular. Customs such as carving pumpkins into jack o'lanterns, bobbing for apples, dressing in costumes, and trick-or-treating are still popular activities to help celebrate Halloween today.  

Jack-’o’-Lanterns have become one of many popular Halloween symbols as well as rituals and traditions.

In Ireland, where Halloween began, the first jack-o'-lanterns weren't made of pumpkins. They were made out of swede (rutabagas), potatoes, turnips, or even beets! Children carried these “punkies”  from door to door and sang.
 There is an old Irish legend about a man named Stingy Jack who was too mean to get into heaven and had played too many tricks on the devil to go to hell. When he died, he had to walk the earth, carrying a lantern made out of a turnip with a burning coal inside. Stingy Jack became known as "Jack of the Lantern," or "Jack-o'-Lantern."

From this legend came the Irish tradition of placing jack-o'-lanterns made of turnips and other vegetables in windows or by doors on Halloween. The jack-o'-lanterns are meant to scare away Stingy Jack and all the other spirits that are said to walk the earth on that night.


"Pumpkins, pumpkins plump and ready to eat, cut of their heads and scoop out their seeds and make them into tasty treats!"

Carve a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin and let it glow!
Use a serrated knife to cut a circle in the top for a lid, angling the knife so the lid won't fall through. Scoop out the pulp and seeds (remember save your seeds to roast for a tasty snack.) With a marker pen draw a face on the pumpkin. Use a small serrated knife to cut out the eyes, nose & mouth. Rub the cut edges with vegeatble oil to keep fresher for longer. Pop a tea light inside the pumpkin, light it and replace the lid, then watch it glow!

Just take a golden pumpkin
 Of quite the largest size,
Cut all 'round the stem, just so,
 Scrape out the inside below,
And cut two holes for eyes.
 And now fix a nose beneath,
 And such a great big mouth with teeth,
 And you've a jack-o'-lantern!

Then fix a tallow candle,
Just big enough to light,
And when it flickers, see him blink,
And when it flares up, see him wink
 And smile so broad and bright.
 This is the jolliest sort of a fellow,
With cheery face so round and yellow,
 This funny jack-o'-lantern.


Witches are a familiar Halloween symbol and they show up everywhere for the season.
Witches have been around for ages and were often thought to have mystical powers, partly because of their connection to Satan or the spirit world. They flew on broomsticks, gathered around cauldrons, made potions involving toads and kept black cats as pets.

Double, double, toll and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Eye of newt, toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing.

~ William Shakespeare
Black cats has long been associated with witches. Many superstitions have evolved about cats. It was believed that witches could change into cats. Some people also believed that cats were the spirits of the dead.

One of the best known superstitions is that of the black cat. If a black cat was to cross your path you would have to turn around and go back because many people believe if you continued bad luck would strike you.

Orange and black are the traditional colours of Halloween.
Orange symbolizes fall, turning leaves, the harvest, bonfires, and jack-o'-lanterns.
Black symbolizes death, evil, the ancient Celtic dark half of the year, the night, witches, black cats, vampires, and bats.

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.