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Halloween in the UK: is it close today to how it used to be?

Are you ready for Halloween? There are still some days ahead, but it’s good to be prepared for the spookiest holiday of the year.

First of all, what are the origins of this ancient festival? 

The Celtic festival of Samhain (Sah-ween)

Today Halloween is celebrated on All Hallows Eve, the night of October 31, the last night of October which was initially the eve of Samhain (the festival which marks the end of the harvest season and the start of winter).

The ancient population of Great Britain (the Celts) used to celebrate the New Year around this date by offering nuts and berries to the souls and spirits of the dead, which they believed used to roam around, before going to the underworld.

… All right, after this short introduction, we can see that Halloween now is surely different, but not that much from its original version. 

What characterises Halloween these days?

Jack o’ Lantern

A hollowed out pumpkin with a scary face carved into one side. It is a symbol derived from the classic story of Stingy Jack, which you surely already know.

The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern”, because he was forced to saunter around the Earth with only one lantern until Judgment Day.

Did you know? Originally, the tradition was to carve beets, potatoes and turnips, and they were surely way scarier than pumpkins. (I dare you to go and look them up)

Apple Bobbing

Bobbing for apples is a typical Halloween game. It consists on filling a large basin with water and putting apples in it. The first one to bite into an apple wins!

Since I have the feeling that you are already planning on cheating at your next apple bobbing session, I will remind you that one of the rules is to tie your arms behind your back and not to edge the apple to the side of the bowl (unlucky, yeah).

This game derives from the ancient Roman invasion of Great Britain; there, Romans used to celebrate Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruits, and they did so by playing the apple bobbing.

They used to either put the apples in water or hang them from a string and the winner of the game was the next one to be allowed to marry; this is in fact one of the most wanted and advanced skills in marriage

Trick or Treat

People still see Halloween as Mischief Night, in which children (and not only) disguise themselves as scary monsters and go door to door to ask for a treat.

The tradition of dressing up has Celtic roots: the Celts believed that the ghosts wouldn’t recognise and consequently not haunt whoever was wearing a mask or a costume.

Then… how about you give up your Corndog costume for this year?

Fire

Probably the most characteristic aspect of this festivity.

Opposed to darkness, fire and light represent salvation and therefore one of the ways to save yourself from evil spirits, monsters and witches. 

But you are a grown-up and definitely don’t believe in any of this… right?

It became a tradition to start a bonfire or light up candles to keep ghosts out of your property. 

I know, it’s kind of ironic to scare away what caused the spook in the first place, but just get along with it.

Last but not least… If you are looking for somewhere to party, don’t miss our Halloween Bar Crawls in Nottingham, Leeds and Edinburgh this year!

I hope I shared some Halloween vibes with you and made you look forward to this festivity.

Hey there, I’m Verdiana, the author of this blog. Follow me on Instagram if you like my content, I would really appreciate it!

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