Kent’s got the spookfactor
It’s dark, there are strange creatures running around the streets, your stash of chocolates is disappearing quicker than the sun on a bank holiday, and it’s 31st October. It can only mean one thing: Halloween. But what is Halloween exactly? And why do we do the things we do on that one creepy night every year?
The History of Halloween
The word Halloween (also known as Hallowe’en) is a shortened version of the term ‘All Hallows’ Eve’. Celebrated on 31st October, it is traditionally said to be the one time of the year when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest which, so they story goes, means that those beings who ‘live’ beyond this mortal coil can burst through and go on the rampage. Why is the security veil so thin at this time? It’s because the next day, 1st November, is All Saints’ Day. The idea behind Halloween is that the saints grow weary as the year trudges on, so just before their special day, when they are glorified and remembered (which renews their strength), the world is at its most vulnerable.
Many Christian celebrations have their origins (the dates at least, but often many of the rituals as well) in ancient pagan traditions, and Halloween is no exception. Its origins can be found in the old Celtic festival of Samhain, which celebrated the end of the harvest period. The Gaelic people believed that if the crops weren’t harvested on time, then the dead would come back to life to destroy what was left, and wreak havoc over the earth.
In order to frighten these viciously destructive creatures away, the Gaels would often light bonfires to keep the sky as bright as possible, and fool the monsters into believing that they had missed their chance and that a new day had dawned. However, on the off chance that some of the spirits decided to chance venturing out anyway, the farmers and their employees would dress up to confuse the un-dead into believing that another creature was already at work in that particular field, and it was hoped that they would then move on elsewhere. When there weren’t enough people to make it look convincing, vegetables were carved into frightening faces and placed on doorsteps to scare the ghosts away.
These days Halloween still keeps with tradition, and there is dressing up, bonfires, pumpkin carving, and costume parties. There is also trick or treating, which is becoming more and more popular than ever in the UK, and originally came from Irish and Scottish immigrants when they moved to America. It was called ‘souling’ back then and involved exchanging prayers for cake. Costumed children (although more often than not there are adults joining in the fun too!) go from door to door shouting, “Trick or treat!” when their knock is answered. If they are given a treat (sweets or chocolate, for example), they leave the house alone and move on. If they are not, then tradition dictates that they play a trick on the homeowner. In the past, this could have been something like throwing flour or eggs (or both!) at the house to show that the householders were not generous. Today, however, it is the social norm to expect children on Halloween, and many people buy in sweets for the occasion. For those who would prefer not to give away treats (new parents, for example, those in wheelchairs, or people who work shifts), it is seen as acceptable to place a polite note on the door with an explanation.
The first known mention of trick or treating comes from a Canadian newspaper in 1911, which published an article about small children begging for nuts and candies whilst singing rhyming songs. It wasn’t a well-known practice (and wasn’t termed ‘trick or treating’) until around 1934, making it a fairly recent – yet extremely important – addition to the Halloween night fun and games.
Kent’s Halloween Haunts
No longer confined to the neighbourhood and family home, Halloween celebrations have taken on a completely new meaning of late, and we’re enjoying every second of it. Gone are the days of witches’ hats and apple bobbing, as spooky mazes, ghostly trails and haunted rides have taken over in favour of a much scarier, forbidding October-end. Cranking up the fear factor, these Kent events promise to make all of your screams come true in 2014.