Have you ever wondered about the origins of Halloween around the world? It’s not all costumes and sweets, in some countries, there are some very interesting traditions. But legend has it that it all started with the ancient Celts…
The Origins of Halloween Around the World
Stemming from ancient Celtic rituals, Samhain, also spelt Samhuinn, is considered to be the original Halloween celebration.
Samhain marked the end of the harvest season. Celtic people believed that the day began and ended at sunset and they would use this celebration to mark the beginning of the shorter days.
During Samhain, the veil between worlds was believed to be thinner, allowing souls and creatures from other domains like fairies or spirits (Aos Sí), to pass through into our world.
To appease the Aos Sí, the people would offer food, drink and livestock. It was also a common belief that any souls departed from your own family would come to share the meal with you, so a place would always be set at the table. It is thought that Jack-o-lanterns were carved and left outside in hopes of scaring unwanted spirits away from the home.
Mumming or Guising (dressing up in costume) became a way of disguising yourself from the Aos Sí and being protected out on the streets at night, developing into today’s tradition of Halloween costumes.
Divination was heavily practiced using nuts and apples, which is where some of our Halloween treats come from. Finally, the baking of barmbrack was used as a way of fortune-telling. Objects like a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin, a ring and a bean were baked inside and each had a specific meaning about your future. The pea meant the person would not marry that year. The stick meant they would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes. The cloth meant they would have bad luck or be poor. The coin would foresee good fortune and riches. The ring meant that the person would be wed within the year and the bean meant they would have a future without money.
Halloween in Other Countries
A festival to mark the end of harvest and the coming of darker days can be found around the world. Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrates the ancestors and family members who have passed on. The Japanese hold huge costume parades which are as big a deal for adults as they are for children because the elaborate costumes win big prizes. In Italy there are ‘beans of the dead’ and in Germany it’s tradition to hide all the knives in the house.
Halloween Around the World with Beyond
Intrigued? Find out more with our Halloween reading comprehension pack, to introduce your students to all the different traditions celebrated for Halloween around the world.
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