Anybody who has ever watched The Dirty Dozen will remember when Telly Savalas’ mentally deranged Pvt. Maggot giggles uncontrollably as the men chant their mission plan, how he loses himself when they cry ‘We all come out like it’s Halloween. However, the origins of Halloween are extremely far away from the assassination missions which preceded the D-Day landings!
Halloween is the festival which we all know (and most of us love). Every 31stof October, children (and adults) across the world don vampire and witch or fairy and hero Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating, begging neighbors for candy and spare pennies in return for songs and small pranks. We associate the night with ghouls and ghosts and we watch horror films.
Yet few of us probably acknowledge the fact that Halloween is a festival borne of a hybrid of Christian and Irish Pagan rites. The Celtic festival Samhain once coincided the Christian All Saints’ (All Hallows) day and Halloween got its name as a shortened form of ‘All Hallows Evening’. The Celtic elements of Halloween promoted the end of the autumn and welcomed the onset of the bitter Irish winter. Great feasts were held and autumnal fruits and vegetables such as apples, berries and pumpkins were used in games like dunking for apples or they were baked in pies and eaten.
The ghostly aspects of the Halloween festival have little to do with the Christian connection with honoring the faithful departed (now on November 1st) and more to do with the Celtic belief that Haloween marked a dissolution of the boundaries between living and dead and Haloween costumes were essentially invented to ward off predatory ghosts and demons.
The traditional Irish association of the 31st of October with the mingling of mortal and immortal was brought to America (were Halloween) is an incredibly popular holiday, by the Irish Diaspora community who fled Ireland during the Great Famine in the mid-late 1840s. In Ireland today, Halloween is still a successful holiday with few refusing to take part on religious grounds and many more people keen to get into ridiculous Halloween costumes and party the night away.
As a result of these origins, Halloween has captured the imagination of children and adults alike for many centuries. It has always been a time to get together with friends and family, binge on luxury foods and have a drink. In more recent times, Halloween is often accompanied with huge public fireworks displays and Halloween costume competitions.
Indeed, Halloween and the sale of Halloween costumes is now a multi-million dollar industry as people continue to dress up for fun, regardless of their religious background. Some of the most popular Halloween costumes include Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wicked Witch of the West and The Fairy Godmother while other iconic images such as the mask from the Scream movies has also proved popular for a number of recent years. So, whether you’re a good fairy or a bloodthirsty vampire, take care of yourself this Halloween and don’t forget to brush your teeth after the glut of candy!