For this Sunday post, I’ve decided to explore the spooktacular origins and rich history of Halloween. So grab your pumpkin-flavored coffee, settle in, and get ready to read!
I believe this was my very first Halloween, cozy in my office cube at Synacor, back in 2012
With its mix of spine-chilling fun, ghostly apparitions, and lots of sweets, Halloween has found a special place in the United States. However, Halloween origins are in the ancient Celtic festival of “Samhain” (pronounced “sow-in”). Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time associated with death. The Celts believed that on the night of October 31st, the boundary between the living and the dead blurs and lets the spirits roam freely.
Particularly in Ireland and Scotland, Halloween has preserved many of its traditional customs. During “Oíche Shamhna” (Halloween in Irish), people carve turnips or potatoes instead of pumpkins and light bonfires to ward off evil spirits. In Scotland, “Samhain” is celebrated with traditional customs such as “guising,” where children dress in costumes and go door-to-door for sweets and “dooking for apples” – a game to catch apples with their teeth in a water-filled tub!
In Wales, Halloween has a special connection to the harvest. “Calan Gaeaf” or “Nos Galan Gaeaf” is celebrated, which involves rituals and divination games to predict one’s future. In England Halloween’s popularity has grown over the years, with the influence of American traditions like pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating. Still, some traditional customs like “apple bobbing” (“dooking for apples”) have endured.
I personally didn’t grow up with Halloween, although it’s celebrated in some parts of Romania and intertwined with ancient folklore. One of the most famous figures is Dracula, based on the historical figure Vlad the Impaler. No wonder Bran Castle, often referred to as Dracula’s Castle, is a popular destination during this time. However, traditionally, the night of November 29th, known as “Saint Andrew’s Eve,” is celebrated. It’s on this night when it’s believed the deceased come to visit the living, and you can catch a glimpse into your future.
In Italy, Halloween is known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “La Festa di Ognissanti,” meaning “To Honor all Christian Saints.” While it’s not as widely celebrated as in some other European countries, it’s still recognized with costume parties and decorations. And In France, Halloween has gained popularity particularly among young people. You can find Halloween-themed events, parties, and decorations in cities like Paris.
Though embraced and commercialized worldwide, Halloween in Europe has both Celtic and Christian origins and offers a unique blend of history, mystique, and fun. Whether you’re wandering through the enchanting streets of Dublin, enjoying a ghost tour in Edinburgh, or experiencing the eerie charm of Transylvania, Europe has a diverse array of celebrations to offer.
And if you’re one of those die-hard fans of this spooktacular holiday, consider taking a Halloween trip to Europe next year! 🎃