Halloween, a traditional day of celebration, or merely an excuse to surrender to your dark side? Nowadays, it appears that Halloween is simply a consumerist holiday, an excuse to wear and eat whatever you wish for an evening – guilt free. To be honest, how many people take Halloween seriously nowadays, apart from the sugar crazed loonies?

Let us journey back to the beginning of this holiday, when Halloween was a Celtic festival known as Samhain and was sanctified by most people who celebrated it. This day marked the end of summer and the coming of winter, in alignment with the solstices. The period in which days grow shorter and nights longer named ‘Samhain’, was associated with human death and, therefore, became a day of importance to the Celts, as they felt that on this day the spirits of the dead walked the earth amongst the living. In order to prevent malevolent spirits from disturbing them, the Celts would build bonfires and dance around them wanting to ward off unwelcome spooks. However, they hoped that kind spirits would enter their homes and they left their doors open (Not advice I would recommend at present!)

The concept may, by contrast, seem foreign in modern society; after all we don’t tend to welcome any spirits at all. Celts weren’t opposed to Granny’s ghost joining them for tea! Spirits were not only believed to be free to roam the earth, but other supernatural forces seemed to be at work during the winter solstice. Divination was thought to be at its strongest at Samhain and so the locals would try to predict events such as marriages and when someone could die. Magic seemed very tangible back then, and played a significant role in the changeover between summer and winter.

You can see where we get some of the ideas for our modern celebrations of Halloween throughout all this doom and gloom! The Celts did seem to also see the lighter side of the dead roaming our world, whereas we tend to concentrate on the scarier aspect, having a strong supernatural tone to the day. However, a direct link between Samhain and Halloween can be unearthed. The reason why people used to dress up as paranormal beings was because some spirits were believed to be looking for a body to possess for the following year; a way of avoiding this possession was to dress up as ghouls, goblins, ghosts and witches. Perhaps, we are not so different from the people of 500 BC, has that much really changed between us?


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