[Photo by Hanna Horwarth]
Why are pumpkins, bats, costumes and apples so closely associated with Halloween? The answers can be found by delving into the history books…
Did you know that Halloween is celebrated on 31st October? If you’re American it’s a date you’re unlikely to forget – while the British love celebrating Halloween, US citizens really love observing this festival.
Baker Ross has lots of Halloween Crafts, Halloween Toys and decorations. Some of these exciting products wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for American Halloween traditions.
Many historians believe that Halloween’s origins come from Scottish and Irish festivals. But whereas these Celtic nations carved Halloween jack-o’-lanterns from humble turnips, the Americans opted to use pumpkins to fashion Halloween decorations from. Perhaps it’s the pumpkins size and colour which now makes it a more popular Halloween item than the rather bland looking turnip.
Not content with merely putting up decorations, many American ‘home-haunters’ painstakingly construct amateur Halloween displays in their front gardens. The US love of constructing a DIY ghost train ride near their front door is yet to catch on this side of the Atlantic, but Brits, and particularly British children, certainly love Halloween – we just have a different way of showing it!
During Halloween 2010, Waitrose reported selling 13 per cent more pumpkin-carving kits and 676 (yes, 676) per cent more pumpkins – enough to make a lot of pumpkin soup!
The origins of Halloween
Halloween is thought to have evolved from an ancient Celtic festival known as Samuin (variously pronounced as sow-an or sow-in). The Samuin festival marked the end of the harvest festival. It is a time when the Gaels believed the dead could come back to life to damage carefully-cultivated crops.
Bonfires are believed to have been a big part of the festival. The fires attracted insects and the insects attracted bats – hence bats have become an important Halloween symbol; one which is found on many festive decorations.
And if you think the wearing of Halloween costumes is a modern tradition then think again – evidence exists that the superstitious Gaels wore special dress in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits who lurked near the bonfires. Some think that the costumes were donned to mimic the malicious spirits – a provocative activity!
The custom of dressing up in costumes became very widespread once more in Scotland around the late 19th century.
Robert Burns and Halloween
The Scots revival of the Halloween tradition owes much to the popularity of a Robert Burns’ poem called Halloween which was used as inspiration for those holding Halloween celebrations.
The Burns poem makes reference to an ancient superstition that if a young woman ate an apple in front of a mirror on Halloween the face of the man she would end up marrying would appear. Young women who don’t wish to know their marital fate might find the alternative Halloween tradition of apple-bobbing a lot less stressful!