Handy Histories - Halloween

Handy Histories

  1. #halloween
  2. #history
  3. #handy histories
  4. #pumpkins

Hubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble! Halloween is coming up on us fast – if you’re lucky, you’ll get a visit from some trick or treaters, or maybe your friend in a scary costume! But where does it come from? Why do we get dressed up and ask for a trick or a treat?

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Just like Christmas and Easter, Halloween is at heart a Christian celebration to remember the dead and to ward off the naughty spirits of the dead. Back in the olden days, people took their religion extremely seriously, just like today; but back then religion and the Church dictated your day to day. Church bells told you the time, priests told you what you could and couldn’t do, and the Church was a place of safety in times of trouble such as invasion or natural problems. As almost everyone in Old England couldn’t read; the only way they heard about what was going on or what the Bible said was through the priests in your village or town. The Church was very important to everyday life.

Halloween was a day that was strictly followed in the 1200’s when the first celebrations came into effect in England. A long time before that, before Christianity came to England, there were a religious group called the Druids or Pagans, who would celebrate around the same time a day to remember the dead and ward off evil spirits. Just like Easter and Christmas, a lot of Christian holidays and celebrations are based on Pagan festivals and days.

But where does “Trick-or-Treat” come from? Why is it that we all get dressed up and witches, wizards and lizards and ask people for sweets and chocolate? Well, we don’t really know to be honest! We think it comes from the 1400’s where people would gather together, bake something called a Soul Cake, and leave it for passing friends and acquaintances to take. This was called “souling” and was believed to be good for those who had been christened. In the 15th Century, there were a lot of poor children who would often live in the streets, these children would often go door to door and ask for a soul cake… does this sound familiar?!

The reason we wear costumes is a little scary, but very interesting! It was believed in the olden days, that spirits that still walked the earth on Halloween were aggravated and bothered; and were using their last moments on earth to do harm to those that had wronged them in life. Around Halloween, people would wear costumes and masks to avoid being recognised by the angry spirits of the dead.

The pumpkin, which you may be carving later on, is believed to be a form of traffic light for the dead! The Pumpkin, which as often carved into a scary face, would represent the dead, and how they had no representation on earth. The hollowing out of the pumpkin and the placing of a candle in the middle was a way of attracting the dead away from the homes of good Christian people to stop them haunting. So, we can safely say that Halloween has been around for a long time, for over 2,000 years in fact, and in all those years, it hasn’t really changed very much has it?

If you have any questions about the History Halloween, or where certain celebrations come from around this time of year, email us at [email protected] and we will try to get back to you!

Glossary:

Halloween – The celebration of the dead, and the warding off of evil spirits. Celebrated on the 31st October

Century – 100 years. We are currently in the 21st Century. Queen Victoria lived in the 19th and 20th Century for example.

Souling – The baking and sharing of bread around Halloween – to help protect those of the Christian faith

Haunting – When a spirit refuses to leave the mortal world and causes mischief

Handy Histories; Signing Off!

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