Children and parents look forward to Halloween, the costumes, the carving of pumpkins, and the running from place to place for treats. But why do we do this? How did these traditions become part of the yearly ritual, known as Halloween?
Many of our practices have found their start within Celtic folklore. On All Hallows Eve (October 31st), all those who died within that year were able to join with the living before they journeyed to the otherworld. For many villages, this was a celebration to honor the souls of the departed. Often bonfires were lit and feasts were prepared. Families would bake a special delicacy known as “soul cakes.” Not all families were able to afford to make these treats, so they sent their children from house to house, collecting soul cakes for their consumption.
As time moved on, beliefs changed and All Hallows Eve became a night of wickedness. It was said that on this evening, the Prince of Darkness would appear to taunt those that worshiped the souls of the dead. Witches were believed to be followers of the devil and had the ability to turn themselves into black cats. Therefore, anyone seeing a black cat would quickly get out of its path.
Those who had died became known as the ‘wandering dead’ and their passageway was one of pure evil. In order to continue to move amongst the living, they disguised themselves in a variety of acceptable costumes. To this day, families enjoy the gaiety of the celebration. Whether they dress in costumes of their favorite characters or give regard to the folklore of days gone by, Halloween is an evening of fantasy and magic.