Halloween nowadays seems to have been hijacked by Supermarkets – selling us costumes and mountains of sweets & junk food. But it wasn’t always this way! Halloween is an ancient Celtic festival that celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of Winter – the first day of November being the start of the Celtic new year.
It was a time to sort out the harvest and prepare for the cold winter ahead. Animals were slaughtered and meat was preserved to last through the lean months. Halloween rituals included bonfires and feasting on apples, nuts and harvest fruits – not a million miles away from how we celebrate Halloween today, but minus the junk food!
The Celts believed that on the evening of the last day of October the line between our world and the spirit world was blurred. Spirits were free to roam the land and they weren’t always nice! To ward off evil spirits, people extinguished the fires in their homes and gathered around huge communal bonfires. Some accounts suggest that the Celts dressed up in animal skins to confuse the spirits.
It was a magical time when people believed that you could see in to the future. On Halloween night it was said that if a girl looked in to a mirror whilst brushing her hair she would see the reflection of her future husband over her shoulder. Another superstition was that if you peeled an apple in one go, the peel would fall to the ground in the shape of the initial letter of your future husband’s name.
The pumpkin that has become the traditional symbol of Halloween started off as a carved turnip. A candle was placed in to a hollowed out turnip and hung up to scare evil spirits away. Irish emigrants took this idea with them to America – where pumpkins were more available and easier to carve.
When you look at the origins of Halloween there are many cross over traditions and regional variations. We have discovered an ancient Halloween tradition – The Switch Witch!
The Switch Witch
The Switch Witch is a good witch who comes on Halloween night. She takes away the sweets that children have collected, and she leaves games, small toys and coins in their place.
We’re planning to meet the Switch Witch this weekend, and she’ll be telling us all about herself. Apparently she’s dusting off her broomstick and getting ready for Halloween 2011…watch this space for news!
Why not tell your children about the Switch Witch? Perhaps she’ll pay them a visit this Halloween!
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