Friday, 31 October 2014

All Hallows Eve

                               Who will be knocking on your door this evening?

This evening, most of us will be standing at our front doors with bowls of sweets, placing a sticky sweet or lolly into the little hands of ghosts, witches and last year, at my door, Woody from Toy Story! When these dear little children dress up do they actually know the story behind this tradition? Halloween is a Christianised feast taken from Celtic celebrations at All Hallow Even, the eve of All Hallows day when our ancestors celebrated New Year on November 1st. A fairly recent tradition, dated from the ninetieth century to our present day, the 31st October has increasingly acquired a reputation as a night on which ghost, witches, and fairies, are especially active. There is no mention of the word Halloween in Anglo-Saxon texts or from the medieval period where the 31st of October was anything else other than the eve of All Saints Day. The witches, ghosts (but not Woody) stem from the Celts believing that evil spirits came with the long hours of winter darkness. They believed that on that night the barriers between our world and the spirit world were at their weakest and therefore spirits were most likely to be seen on earth, they built bonfires to frighten the spirits away, and feasted and danced around the fires. These Halloween fires burned the strongest in Scotland and Ireland, where Celtic influence was most pronounced, although they lingered on in some of the northern counties of England until the early years of the last century. But in England the bonfire is associated with the 5th November, the anniversary of the Gunpowder plot of 1605 and not with Halloween.