Halloween - origins and beliefs

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 41            October 28, 1999

Features: Search Issues | Read Back Issues | Subscriptions | Merchandise Ordering Information

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.

Search SanPedroSun.net go!
| AmbergrisCaye.com | Island Info | Community | History | Visitor Center |
Belize News | BelizeSearch.com | Messages |

Copyright © San Pedro Sun. Design by Casado Internet Group

San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize News