'Trick-or-Treat' at Halloween - Where did it all begin?
You may wonder, just how did we arrive at this highly commercialised affair we know today as Halloween? Is it American or is it British? Well, pull up a chair close by the fire and let me tell you how it all began.
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Halloween's pagan roots can be dated back to 12th century Britain whilst it's Christian origins begin around 1745. Halloween (it's proper name is All Hallows Eve) is the precursor to All Hallows Day and All Souls Day when the Christians feasted to celebrate the faithful departed. Halloween's pagan roots can be traced back to a festival called Samhain. Traditionally criers, dressed in black, would ring a bell mournfully around the streets to remember the pour souls in purgatory. At that time the poor (mainly children) would collect 'soul cakes' door to door baked by the rich, in exchange for praying for the dead. So, yes you're right, it's entirely possible this could be the origins of our modern day 'trick-or-treating'.
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Centuries ago when folk had some very strange beliefs, (some still do, I know 😜) they believed it was easier to connect with the dead at this time of year. They thought the boundary between this world and the next was was especially thin, and so would place candles in every room in order to guide the souls back to their earthy homes. However, there were non-conformist protestants who believed that the spirits were evil and homes and barns were blessed to protect man and beast from the witches who they believed travelled with the spirits. Lanterns were made from turnips, not pumpkins, at this time.
Halloween games were popular and in Britain and Ireland children would often play 'apple-bobbing.' We've all played this game at some point right? It's harmless enough when you try to catch an apple with your teeth as it 'bobs' in water. But they had another version where you held a fork in your teeth as you tried to 'fork' the apple! How many of us can say they've played that one? Another, still more dangerous game involved an apple and a lighted candle being hung from the ceiling at either end of a piece of wood/or a stick. With the stick spinning around above your head you would take your turn to catch the apple with your teeth - aaah health & safety would just love that today!!
Juveniles thought it would be fun to scare their neighbours and confuse the spirits and so they began to wear costumes and scary masks to keep the spirits from playing pranks on them.
It was the Irish and Scottish immigrants who brought 'souling' to America in the 1800's and so the popularity of Halloween grew. But it wasn't until the 1900's that modern day trick-or-treating began.
And so the 3 day 'Feast of the Dead' as it was, which denoted the changing of the seasons and when the Druids built a sacred communal bonfire, evolved into the '1 evening' celebration of trick-or-treating at Halloween that we know today.
From the 1990's pumpkin carving became the done thing in Britain, and around 17 million pumpkins were bought at Halloween last year. That's a helluva lot of pumpkins, and whilst it's great fun carving them with the kids, why not have a go at making some delicious chilli and pumpkin soup (simples!), and roast your seeds with a drop of olive oil and flavouring, or at the very least, put it on the compost heap.
I hope you all enjoy celebrating Halloween this year and scare the hell outa your friends and neighbours. Yes, it's commercialised, and yes, it's Americanised, but it's FUN and hell you gotta have a larfff and let your hair down right? I mean, how long are we actually on this planet for?? Awww, don't get me started on that one, I can feel another blog coming on! 😂
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