As the nip in the air steadily rises, Halloween strikes in; getting the whole atmosphere and surroundings gloomy and dark. This spook fest generates a lot of curiosity and creativity amongst everyone. Eve of 31st October is the celebration of all things ghostly. Not just the regular jack-o-lantern but creating makeshift haunted spaces, playing apple bobbing, dressing up in the weirdest and scariest costumes, trick-or-treating, mummers’ play etc. mark Halloween today.
Behind all these customs are deep rooted stories and customs that have seeped into our culture crossing oceanic boundaries; though Halloween has very English origin, it is prevalent in almost all the parts of the western world today. The word ‘Halloween’ is derived from the Scottish phrase – ‘All Hallow’s Eve’. Halloween is a tradition that crept into the world culture through the Celtic nations. The festival of ‘Samhain’ is said to be the root of Halloween; mentioned in the earliest of Irish scriptures, Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winters; when livestock was slaughtered, bonfires and rituals were practiced. Halloween is said to have taken shape after the same customs; it was believed that the dead and their spirits were far more probable to visit their homes and cross over to our word on Halloween. People visit graveyards, pay homage, offer flowers and light up candles in the memory of the deceased.
Though Samhain was essentially a festival of the dead, today Halloween has made its place more of a fun, costume-wearing and dress-up festival rather than an orthodox festival with rituals to please the underworld. In ancient Irish and English cultures, during Halloween, spooky costumes were worn by all and feasts were had, empty chairs were kept for the dead to savour the festivities of the day; today the feasts remain, but the festivities are meant more to have a one of a kind fun festival rather than a call to the dead and unknown.
Halloween is said to have started as early as 16th Century; what has kept the festival alive is probably the one of a kind rituals and practices – be it dressing up in eerie costumes, making pumpkin lanterns, adorning homes with cobwebs and brooms or role playing a character. People even leave meals, bowls of milk etc., for the dead souls; a way to make sure that they do not invite their wrath.
The late twentieth century marked the starting of a number of Halloween parades; a joint celebration of all things weird, ghostly and fear/cringe inducing dramatic costumes. Participants let their imagination run wild and wear everything from sexy corsets, lingerie mimicking costumes or bring out the Victorian era alive by wearing corset with full skirted costumes. Halloween is definitely one of the few days that makes the young, old and even the disinterested jump on the idea of turning everything around them a little dark, demon inviting and bogeyman-like.
Carve a monster face pumpkin, add some practical tricks around the house, wear a ghost costume and feast on meat – Halloween is the perfect way to add a punch to the mundane winter routine and play some practical jokes too!