Halloween is a day when many children dress up in unusual costumes. The
day was originally called All Hallow's Eve because it fell on October
31st, the eve of All Saint's Day. The name was later shortened to
Halloween. It derives from both pagan festival and Christian worship.
Many Halloween customs are based on beliefs of the past and some date
back as far as the ancient Druids.
One of the beliefs of pagan Ireland was
that on this night the dead could return to Earth as witches, goblins,
ghosts, black cats, or in other weird forms. The date marked the end of
summer, or the time when the sun retreated before the powers of darkness.
All the dark underworld characters then had their wicked carnival of
triumph, when they were supposed to engage in all sorts of malicious
mischief. Against them, any kind of light was considered a protection.
Hence, there arose the custom of building great bonfires on hilltops and
carrying blazing torches all around the field. As this custom fell into
disuse, candles replaced the fires. Wych-elm, witch hazel and holly were
also thought to furnish protection.
An old Scottish superstition, which
is still carried out today in Halloween decorations, was the witches.
Those who had sold their souls to the devil, left in their beds on
Halloween night, a stick made by magic to look like themselves. They
would fly up the chimney and off through the sky on a broomstick,
attended by black cats.
Regional Halloween customs developed among various
groups of Celts. In Ireland, for example, people begged for food in a
parade that honored Muck Olla, a god. The leader of the parade wore a
white robe and a mask made from the head of an animal.
In Scotland, people paraded through fields and
villages carrying torches. They lit huge bonfires on hillsides to drive
away witches and evil spirits.
In Wales, every person marked a stone and put it into
a bonfire. The people believed that if a person's stone was missing the
next morning, he or she would die within a year.
In England, Halloween was sometimes called Nutcrack
Night, Crab Apple Night or Apple and Candle Night. Families sat by the
fire and told stories while they ate apples and nuts. On All Soul's Day,
poor people went a-souling (begging). They received pastries called soul
cakes in exchange for promising to pray for the dead.
Such fears and superstitions no longer exist and
Halloween has become all fun. The pranks and practical jokes appropriate
to the night are enjoyed particularly by the young, because they love to
make believe they are witches, ghosts or goblins and to see grown ups
pretend to be scared.
The country of Belize is not very familiar with these
legends and superstitions, but many are now engaging in the modern way of
celebrating Halloween. In San Pedro, for example, youngsters look forward
to this time of the year to go trick-or-treating. This is usually done by
members of the pre-schools. The youth engage in private or school parties
that feature fun games and spooky activities. For adults, one of the most
awaited events is the annual Halloween Bash at the Holiday Hotel. This
fun event brings out the kid in most of us as we put on our creative
costumes and have a fun time with our friends. As we approach Halloween
Night, whether it is getting our children ready for trick-or-treat or
putting the final touches on our own costume, Halloween has become a
family affair that has brought us closer with our children, family and
friends. Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.