According to reliable sources, our blogs are mostly read by people from Ireland and America, so firstly thank you to you all (and everyone else) for taking the time to find out what we’re up to! Secondly, if you are Irish or American then this blog is right up your street, it’s all about Halloween around the world.
Where It All Began
Ireland! The Celts, who lived in what is now known as Ireland, 2,000 years ago began celebrating the festival of Samhain. The 1st of November was the Celt’s New Year, marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. This day was believed to be a day when the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and so on the 31st October they celebrated Samhain with huge sacred bonfires, burning crops and animals as sacrifices to their deities.
The Romans conquered Ireland around 43 A.D., which led the festival of Samhain to be merged with the Roman festival of Feralia, a day to commemorate the dead. Pope Gregory III expanded on the day further by moving the Roman ‘All Martyrs Day’ to the 1st November and included all Saints in the celebration to – creating All Saints Day. The influence of Christianity in Ireland gradually blended older Celtic rites and Samhain traditions with All Soul’s Day (a day created by the Church to reputedly replace the Celtic festival with a Church sanctioned celebration).Then began a slow transition in language from All-hallows and All-hallows Eve to All Saints Day and Halloween!
Halloween in the USA!
Great movies such as E.T, Hocus Pocus and soon Hocus Pocus 2 (only slightly excited about that one…) have given us Brits unattainable ideas of what Halloween should be like, because it seems no one does Halloween better than America. According to a random online Top 10 list, the best town in America to trick-or-treat is Cornwall in New York…though we’re happy to start a debate on that if you think your town is better! People go all out to decorate their homes and streets, the costumes are carefully planned and brilliantly executed and we do realise that we are making complete generalisations here. We’re sure there are Americans who dislike Halloween, just as there are some Brits that must have live in the US at some point because their Halloween celebrations are legendary.
Dunstane Halloween Traditions
The beauty of working in a hotel in Edinburgh is having a multicultural team. We popped into a staff meeting to ask everyone what their home countries Halloween traditions were…
“We don’t really celebrate Halloween in Zim, not to the same extent as the rest of the world anyway! There are parties and we get dressed up, but the children don’t go trick or treating – not really safe to go out at night with the native wildlife we have!
“Some people do go to Halloween parties, but for us Dzień Wszystkich Świętych is more important. You know this as All Saints Day. The 1st and 2nd November are holidays in Poland and at night, we visit the graves of our loved ones and place candles and flowers to remember and honour them. The cemetery is not a scary place of ghosts, it’s beautiful and full of love on this night, my whole family go together and it’s one of my favourite nights of the year.”
One tradition Zuza also mentioned is something her Mum, who lives in Germany does. The Germans make sure all knives are put safely away, to avoid harm from or to any returning spirits who cross whilst the line between worlds is blurred! This tradition was too funny (and at the same time, very sensible if you believe in the spirit world) to leave out.
On Orkney, Halloween is more a night of mischief! It used to be called Devilment Night, which means night of mischief, because of all the pranks we play on people. A blind-eye is turned to children (and lots of adults) on this night with majority of people seeing the funny side when their tractor has been moved or being covered in egg and flour! You can hardly blame us for a night of fun and high spirits at this time of year, when the long, dark and cold winter is about to batter the Island…
Derek, our Electrician from John Nobles
Just passing through to fix lights, Derek added his own Scottish Halloween tradition…”My own kids are old enough to go off out with their friends and my neighbours with small kids know the secret knock that makes me open the door for them trick-or-treating. Apart from that the curtains are shut and all the lights are turned off. There’s a “design flaw” in my house though, a small window next to the front door, which could give the game away if someone looks through it…so I make sure that’s safely covered up using a dishcloth and sellotape”