−−− BY LINZI DAVIES −−−

It’s that time of year again when we imagine things that go bump in the night. Costumes and treats hit the shops, pumpkins are carved and we hit the dark cold streets with our miniature witches, wizards and zombies all hoping for a basket full of treats by the end of the night.

The celebration of Halloween has increased a lot over the years, certainly since I was a child when all you could buy was a plastic face mask with two eye holes and one for your mouth that cut your tongue when you couldn’t resist poking it through. Pumpkins were not readily available then either – I remember my mum carving a swede instead, how she managed I will never know as I find them hard enough to simply dice up for a stew! But where does this strange tradition come from? Who decided it would be a good idea to dress up as the most hideous creature you can think of and wander the streets in search of goodies?

Well, I discovered that Halloween has not always been about pumpkins and trick or treating. In this month’s feature, find out all about how this autumnal festival came about and the traditions over the years. 

The origin of Halloween

We can trace Halloween back to the time of the Celts in Britain. Celtic Britain was pre-Christian, and the year was organised by the growing seasons. As the summer ended and the harvest began before the dark and cold winter months set in, the people in these farming communities saw it as a change from the abundant time of growth into a time of dormancy. As they saw this transition between ‘life’ and ‘death’ they celebrated the festival of Samhain which symbolised the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead. The Druids – the Celtic priests, would lead the celebrations and a major part of this was to light a large bonfire in each village. The Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead were able to revisit the mortal world for one night and the bonfire was lit to ward off any evil spirits that might also try to sneak through. The hearth fire of each house was re-lit from the embers of the bonfire to protect the inhabitants throughout the coming winter months. Another ‘protection’ method the Celts used was to dress up as evil spirits. This way, if they came across any they would think that they were one of them!

When the Romans invaded Britain in 43AD they assimilated their own celebrations into the existing Celtic festivals. The Roman goddess of fruit and trees was known as Pomona and her symbol was the apple. As her festival was celebrated at harvest time, when the Romans would have consumed apples, nuts and grapes, it is suggested that this may be where the tradition of ‘bobbing’ for apples came from which many people still enjoy playing today at Halloween.

A move into Christianity

In the early 5th century as Romans began moving out of Britain, it was invaded by a new set of conquerors – the Saxons, Jutes and Angles. This pushed the Celtic tribes to the north and west of the country. Christianity began arriving over the next few decades from both the early Celtic Church, and the arrival of Saint Augustine in 597AD. Among the Christian festivals to arrive on our shores was All Hallows’ Day – or All Saints Day. This was traditionally celebrated on the 13th May each year to commemorate all those who had died for their beliefs, but in the 8th century Pope Gregory moved the feast to the 1st November, attempting to replace Samhain with a celebration more in keeping with the Christian faith. This is where we get the name Halloween from as the night of Samhain became known as All-hallows-even, then Hallow Eve. It later was adapted into Hallowe’en before finally becoming Halloween. 

Despite the changing faiths of Britain over the centuries, many people still believe Halloween to be a special time of year when the spirit world can make contact with the physical, and a time when magic is at its strongest. This is where hollowed out swedes and turnips come into play, only recently replaced by pumpkins. The faces carved into the vegetables would be lit from within by a candle and placed in the window to ward off evil spirits – the same thing the Celts were doing 2000 years ago with their bonfires!

Trick or Treating

As well as the Celts dressing up as evil spirits all those years ago, the Christians would dress up as saints and angels as part of their All Saints Day celebrations. This means that there is a tradition of dressing up around Halloween for thousands of years.

The first form of trick or treating began in the Middle Ages. Children and sometimes adults from poor families would dress up and go door to door begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers on behalf of the dead. This was called ‘souling’ as they would often be begging for soul cakes. These sweet spiced currant cakes were baked as an offering to the dead, and were then given to the children as alms. One such rhyme used by the children went like this “Soul, souls, for a soul cake; Pray you good mistress, a soul cake!” The practice was also mentioned by Shakespeare in his comedy ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ when the character Speed accuses his master of “puling (whining) like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

The first recorded use of the words ‘trick or treat’ comes from Alberta Canada in 1927. It says “Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun……The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.” It did not become widespread though until the 1930’s in America, and this was halted during WW2 due to sugar rationing. The term ‘trick or treating’ did not become popular in Britain until the 1970’s-80’s. 

Today, the custom is still a matter of much debate. While many households see it as harmless fun for children, providing them with an opportunity to dress up and eat large amounts of sweets, some hate it. They see it as begging, bad manners and a huge inconvenience to have constant knocking at their door. However this tradition maybe affected by COVID with many choosing to stay at home for their Halloween fun. 

Whatever your personal views are on Halloween, children invariably love it and even though it has changed a lot over the years, it is one of our longest running traditions!

Read on for some creepy crafts to make with your little ones;

Little Ghosts

What you need;

Tissue paper

Black yarn or string

Scissors

Black marker pen

How to make them;


Scrunch up some tissue paper into a ball (around the size of a ping pong ball)


Take a square of tissue paper and with the ball in the centre, wrap it around so that the tissue ball is covered and the rest hangs down.


Using a length of yarn or string, tie it around and fasten off to secure the ‘head’ of the ghost – a nice bow would make a smart ghost!


Using a black marker pen, give the ghost some eyes and a mouth.

If you like, you can make lots of ghosts and fasten them together with more yarn to make hanging ghost bunting!

Halloween Collage

What you need;

Sheets of paper (white or coloured)

Black craft paper

Glue

Scissors

Twigs, leaves and pine cones

How to make them;


Enjoy some time outdoors and collect some small twigs and leaves, and maybe some pine cones


Taking a sheet of paper, glue your twigs and leaves on however you like. You might want to make a tree shape out of the twigs, and grass using the leaves – let your creativity decide!


Cut some Halloween shapes out of the black craft paper such as cats, bats, spiders and other spooky creatures, or even a haunted house. 


Stick them onto your pictures to create your finished creepy Halloween collage picture.

Skull Paper Lanterns

What you need;

White paper

Black marker pen

Scissors

Clear tape or glue

How to make them;


Take a piece of white A4 paper, and fold it in half length ways to make a crease.


Open it back out flat, and using your marker pen draw a skeleton face in the middle.


Fold the paper back in half, then cut strips from the folded edge up towards the edge of the paper but stopping around an inch (2.5cm) from the edge so that the paper remains joined together.


Open the paper up again, and this time fold it around and stick the two short edges together to make your lantern shape. 


If you wish, cut a small strip from another piece of paper and attach each end to the top of the lantern to create a handle.

Halloween Sweets Holder

What you need;

Empty toilet paper tubes

Wrapping paper

Marker pens

Googly eyes

Clear tape or craft glue

Tissue paper

Scissors

Small sweets

How to make them;


Trace around the bottom of the toilet paper tube on a scrap piece of wrapping paper and cut it out.


Tape the circle to the bottom of the toilet paper tube


Roll out some wrapping paper and measure enough to fit around the tube. Cut out the paper.


Before putting the paper on the tube, in the centre draw a spooky face using the marker pens. You can also add googly eyes or other decorations. 


Wrap your paper around the toilet roll tube and secure it in place.


Add some sweets to the inside of your tube


Cut some squares of tissue paper and stuff them into the top of the tube to create monster hair.

Make a variety of colours and designs for a scary monster gang – either give them out to trick or treaters, or use them to decorate your house and enjoy the sweets yourselves!

Pom Pom Spider Pencil Toppers

What you need;

Pipe cleaners

Pom poms

Googly eyes

Pencils

Glue (hot glue works best – let an adult do this part)

Scissors

Pencils

How to make them;


Cut two pipe cleaners in half to make four shorter pieces


Wrap another pipe cleaner around the middle of them to fasten the four pieces together in a bunch, leaving around 2 thirds of the pipe cleaner hanging down. You will now have four legs at each side. 


Take a pencil and wrap the remainder of the long pipe cleaner around the pencil until it is all coiled up, then carefully slide it off the end of the pencil. 


Bend the four short pieces at each side to form spider leg shapes


Using hot glue, attach 2 pom poms on top of the legs – one larger for the body and one smaller for the head. 


Glue some googly eyes onto the head, then place the spiralled pipe cleaner back onto your pencil.

Experiment with different colour combinations of pipe cleaners and pom poms to make your spiders unique!

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