Yesterday was Halloween, a festival I paid very little attention to as a child, unlike my sons who loved going out Tricking & Treating with friends. To them, Halloween was all about the sweets! I remember piles of sweets on the kitchen table being shared out between friends- people can be very generous.
I always grew up with the thought in the back of my mind that Halloween was a Pagan festival surrounded in some sort of mystery and that it had possibly been given a bit if a demonic slant somewhere along the line. Glowing pumpkins and skeletons do project a mildly sinister atmosphere yet there is definitely a fun side - dressing up and parties for a start, watching scary films, and apparently visiting haunted houses is also on the agenda.
Halloween originated as All Hallows' Eve (or All Saints' Eve) and is one of the oldest festivals still celebrated having existed for around 2000. 31st October is the last date on the Celtic calender- interesting in itself, time being a subject I blogged recently Is There Enough Time? This was considered to be the end of a season and celebrated with huge bonfires to round off the harvest.
I was told recently that Halloween is a time to say prayers for the dead- in fact, the Celts left out treats as they believed that the souls of the dead walked on Halloween and this practice would ensure a good harvest the following year- the origin of trick or treat. Taking a day out to celebrate the lives of family members who are no longer with us would be a wonderful idea and a good way of using Halloween. Baking 'Soul cakes' is a popular activity in many countries (originally used for treats) and something that can be done by families as a way to remember our loved ones. The English soul cakes were very rich and spicy, possibly to tempt the spirits as they were left out in candlelight to guide the stray spirits home. I think baking soul cakes could be a really nice alternative to trick and treating, creating a focal point in october for a family get together- imagine sitting around with the old photo albums and telling stories that conjour up special memories.
Halloween has been and gone for another year whilst the sun shined throughout the first day of November, continuing with the hottest weather in many years during this Autumn season. By the time you blink, Christmas will be upon us!