What could be gently rapping, tapping at the chamber door? ‘Tis some visiter, tapping at my chamber door.
Halloween is tapping at our chamber door, ready for us with ghoulish delights and plenty of tricks and treats in store. Whilst it may be an ancient Celtic festival that celebrated the New Year, it has become a mainstay in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world.
So we pondered upon a midnight dreary, how did it become the night we all know? Let us see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.
The ancient Celts believed that on this night the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To celebrate, druids wore costumes made of slain animals, lit bonfires and upon the Roman conquest of Celtic lands it was combined with the Roman holiday of Feralia (note the similarity with the Italian word for holidays – ferie).
As with many other celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, these celebrations were adopted into our modern culture through the spread of Christianity and this also helps explain the etymology of Halloween.
Whilst far removed from the Celtic word Samhain, the word Halloween or Hallowe’en is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening/All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve. Hallowed, as we know comes from the old English word hālga, mainly holy. Therefore, in many places across the world, in particular those with Judaeo-Christian backgrounds November 1st is celebrated as All Saints’ Day or Tutti i Santi in Italy and Allerheiligen in Germany.
Whilst it’s a far cry from the forgotten lore it once was, from films to pumpkins and costumes, Halloween is certainly big business. Some think the modern holidays are overly commercialised, but carving up the nearest animal, be it raven, sheep or goat, and wearing its skin and bones is likely to be frowned upon a lot more, forevermore.
Of course, there is much more to Halloween than we can fit into a small blog post so before you go we recommend listening to “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe to get you in the holiday mood.
Be that word our sign of parting.