Trick or Treat
Halloween. The 31st of October. The night between autumn and winter, light and dark; when the barrier between the living and the dead is at its weakest. When spirits cross over from the realm of the dead and walk amongst the living or, as we all would much rather call it: trick-or-treat!
Originating as All-Hallows Eve, Halloween has its roots in Celtic tradition from two thousand years ago, where it was known as ‘Samhain Night’. The Celts celebrated this night by offering animal sacrifices in the name of the dead and lighting bonfires in their honour. They prepared delicious feasts for their lost loved ones, inviting them in by decorating their houses, wearing costumes to protect their identities so that the evil spirits wouldn’t harm them. The annual harvest was divided amongst the living and the dead, and it was a common ritual to distribute the food prepared for the dead amongst the poor. As they thought the barrier between the two worlds to be the thinnest that night, their priests used to spend the night praying in order to obtain prophecies for the upcoming year.
The Christian church later, in its attempts to eliminate pagan practices, renamed this festival as ‘All Saints Day’ (or All Hallows’ Day) and the night before as ‘All Saints Eve’ (or All Hallows’ Eve), commemorating all the saints of church who had passed on to the afterlife.
Today, children all around the world go from door to door, dressed up in their favourite costumes, ranging from Iron Man to Dracula, and all in between, asking for candy and being showered with treats. However, at one point, this used to be a rather solemn tradition the poor would dress up in costumes to entertain the rich, and then beg for food. In return for prayers they made for the rich’s dead and their protection from evil, the poor were given treats what were then known as ‘soul cakes’.
One of the spookiest and most looked forward to practices of Halloween is the Jack O’Lantern, where carved pumpkins show up on every windowsill and porch. Formerly done with turnips, but switching to pumpkins as they are easier to carve, it became famous with the Irish legend of Stingy Jack. According to this tale, Jack, an unholy man, had played a trick on the devil in his lifetime, so when he died, he was turned away from both heaven and hell, and was left to roam the dark nights with nothing but burnt coal in his hands to light his way, making him known as ‘Jack of the Lantern’.
The superstitions surrounding Halloween have little to no meaning today; and whether you celebrate it by gorging yourself on treats, staying in and watching horror movies, going to your favourite haunted houses, or playing pranks with your friends, there is no point in denying that it is one of the most anticipated candy-filled holidays of the year, where people of all ages can express themselves, dress up and experience being kids again.