These days, Halloween is just a fun activity or craft project for kids. It is traditionally celebrated on the 31 October, which down here in the southern hemisphere is actually the threshold to summer.
But the genesis of Halloween lies in an ancient sense of foreboding for the coming of winter: a season associated with death.
Halloween is thought to have had its beginnings with the ancient Celt’s Samhain festival which marked the passing of autumn into winter. It was essentially a way of bolstering the community for the dark, cold months ahead.
During Samhain, the Celts built bonfires, dressed up in the heads and skins of animals and took predictions for the future from their Druids. It must have been a spooky sight in the dark of an ancient evening!
By 43 AD, the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territories and over time the Romans absorbed some of the Celt’s pagan traditions (such as Samhain) into their own church-sanctioned celebrations. In 1000 AD the Romans named November 2, All Saint’s Day or All Hallows day (in Middle English) as a day to honour the dead.
All Hallows Day was celebrated in a similar way to Samhain: bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes which were typically saints, demons and angels. The night before All Hallows became known as All Hallows Eve which eventually morphed into the word “Halloween”.
But why is it so big in America?
The Irish potato famine in 1846 brought a huge influx of Irish immigrants (nee Celts) to the newly colonised Americas. This is probably how Halloween traditions travelled to America and were embraced there in such an enthusiastic way.
And now, with the internet and television making us all into one global village of shared ideas and traditions, Halloween is becoming ever more popular here, too. Halloween is actually a great time to get out into your neighbourhood and connect with the community around you.
How can you get into Halloween in NZ this year?
Prepare your neighbours for a trick-or-treat run
Trick or treating can be a hit and miss affair in New Zealand, but if you let your neighbours know your intentions it can be a lot of fun.
Print out multiple copies of this FREE trick-or-treat printable and put it in letterboxes around your neighbourhood. Include a note letting people know that you and your kids will be doing a trick-or-treat run. If people want to be involved they can pin the pumpkin to their front door. If not, they will be left alone. You can get your kids to help out by colouring it in for you!
Make Halloween treats
And “treats” don’t have to be store-bought sweets. Why not try creating some of these creepy homemade goodies for your Halloween visitors this year.
If cooking isn’t your forte, you could always …
Decorate your house for Halloween
Halloween is a great excuse to break out the scissors, black cardboard and glue for some spooky craft to terrify neighbourly visitors with your Halloween house decorations.
Here are five fun ways to spook up your house for Halloween this year (videos included):