Are you flying off on holiday this Halloween? Will you be looking out for witches through the aeroplane window? Rumour (and legend) has it that if you travel on Halloween, your journey must be over by midnight and if you do have to travel on this spooky night then keep a piece of bread crossed with salt in your pocket as this will keep the witches away!
To be honest, we’re not superstitious here at latedeals.co.uk so if the price is right we wouldn’t hesitate to take a holiday on Halloween, after all a deal is a deal! But where did all this frightful frivolity start? Who invented Halloween? And why does it have such strange customs?
It seems that no-one can actually say for sure when Halloween first started but it is known that Halloween means ‘all hallows eve’. Hallow is an old English word for Saint and when Christianity first arrived in Britain, November 1st was declared All Saints Day.
So that explains that bit but the tradition of ghosts, ghouls and witches seems to date back to Pagan times when they celebrated Samhain, translated as ‘summers end’, on November 1st. This was a festival of the dead and was when the pagans believed that the barriers to the spirit world were weak. They saw this time as the end of ‘the season of the sun’ and the start of ‘the season of darkness and cold’. Or as we would say – autumn!
They lit fires to ward off evil spirits and to ensure the return of the sun (after winter). They threw cattle carcasses into the flames known as a bone fire, hence the evolvement to bonfire. I see a link to Guy Fawkes forming here…
So let’s look at a few Halloween traditions and see if we can find out what they are all about;
Also known as ‘Jack o’ Lanterns’ this tradition began when a miserable old soul known as Jack died and was classed as too sinful to go to heaven, due to the fact that he also played jokes on the devil (as you do), he was barred from hell too, so he was left to wander the earth with his flickering lantern. Today we light candles in pumpkins and leave them at the door, not so much to ward off the evil spirits, more to entice the wonderful neighbourhood children who drag us away from our warm rooms and evening television to relieve us of our sweets.
Trick or Treat
In years gone by people used to leave food on their doorsteps in the hope that this would keep the spirits happy. Poor people used to knock on doors and be given ‘soul cakes’, and every time one was eaten a tortured soul would be released from suffering. If no food was given then a trick would be played on the household. These days it’s the children who knock for sweets and the only tortured souls are us fools who answer the door twenty seven times in an hour!
Why is the colour orange associated with Halloween? It is believed that the colour orange signifies strength and endurance – needed when you are fighting witches and avoiding tortured souls! It is also associated with the many fires that were lit in Pagan times, it could even be that the end of October means autumn is well under way, hence the orange tones. Of course here at Latedeals.co.uk we love the colour orange, as you can tell from our logo, maybe that’s because we have some ‘frighteningly’ good deals!
The Roman festival for remembering the dead also fell during October, as did their celebration of Pomona, goddess of fruit trees, so it is believed that when the Romans came to England they coincided their celebrations with those of Samhain on the 31st October. Apple bobbing is thought to be of significance to marriage and the first female to ‘catch’ an apple would be the next to marry. I’m not sure how this links to Halloween but the thought of choosing who marries who by this method is pretty scary in itself!
Ghosts and ghouls wander the earth on Halloween and many people thought that if they left their house they would be ‘taken’ so they dressed themselves in costumes in the hope that the spirits would think that they were already ‘one of them’. The way some people dress these days though…there’s no need for fancy dress!
So whether you hide behind the curtains and pretend you’re not in or do your best to ‘out-scare’ whoever comes to your door, Halloween is now the third biggest celebration in the UK behind Christmas and Easter, so it’s hard to avoid it altogether. That is unless you book that late deal, jump on that flight and join the witches in the dark night sky.