Halloween (Aussprache: /hæloʊˈiːn/, deutsch auch: /ˈhɛloviːn/), von All Hallows’ Eve benennt die Volksbräuche am Abend und in der Nacht vor dem Hochfest Allerheiligen, vom 31. Oktober auf den 1. November. Dieses Brauchtum war ursprünglich vor allem im katholischen Irland verbreitet. Die irischen Einwanderer in den USA pflegten ihre Bräuche in Erinnerung an die Heimat und bauten sie aus.
Im Zuge der Irischen Renaissance nach 1830 wurde in der frühen volkskundlichen Literatur eine Kontinuität der Halloweenbräuche seit der Keltenzeit und Bezüge zu heidnischen und keltischen Traditionen wie dem Samhainfest angenommen. Bis heute werden entsprechende Mutmaßungen des Religionsethnologen James Frazer zitiert.
Seit den 1990er Jahren verbreiten sich Bräuche des Halloween in seiner US-amerikanischen Ausprägung von Frankreich und dem süddeutschen Sprachraum ausgehend auch im kontinentalen Europa aus. Dabei gibt es deutliche regionale Unterschiede. So wurden insbesondere im deutschsprachigen Raum heimatliche Bräuche wie das Rübengeistern in das kommerziell erfolgreiche Umfeld Halloween adaptiert, genauso nahmen traditionelle Kürbisanbaugebiete wie die Steiermark oder der Spreewald Halloween schnell auf.
Das Wort Halloween, in älterer Schreibweise Hallowe’en, ist eine Kontraktion von All Hallows’ Eve, benennt den „Tag vor Allerheiligen“ (wie auch bei Heiligabend, englisch Christmas Eve). Der Bezug von Halloween zum Totenreich ergibt sich aus dem Fest Allerheiligen und dem darauf folgenden Gedächtnis Allerseelen, an dem die Katholiken ihrer Verstorbenen gedenken.
Herleitung aus römischen oder heidnischen Traditionen
Die Entstehungsgeschichte des Festtags Allerheiligen selbst geht auf die bereits 609 erfolgte Weihung des römischen Pantheons, einem ehemals „allen [römischen] Göttern“ gewidmeten bedeutenden heidnischen Tempel, durch die heidenchristlich geprägte römische Kirche zurück. Das Allerheiligenfest, das sich von Rom aus verbreitete, wurde ursprünglich am 13. Mai gefeiert, das Datum wurde erst von Papst Gregor III. und endgültig von Gregor IV. auf den 1. November verlegt. Die Iroschottische Kirche hat die genannte Verschiebung mithin Jahrhunderte nach der Christianisierung Irlands nachvollzogen. Ein Feiertagsbeginn am Vorabend und zugehörige Bräuche sind keineswegs heidnisch, sondern stimmt wie bei Silvester und Heiligabend mit der auf (Gen 1,5 EU) begründeten jüdischen Feiertagsliturgie überein.
Im fränkischen Reich führte Ludwig der Fromme das Fest Allerheiligen schon im Jahr 835 ein. So wird an Allerheiligen traditionell der Gemeinschaft der Heiligen gedacht. Am 2. November an Allerseelen sollte durch Gebete und Fürbitten sowie durch Almosen das Leiden der Toten im Fegefeuer gelindert werden.
Bereits im Zug der hochmittelalterlichen wie später im Zuge der irischen Renaissance wurden einige der christlichen Aspekte bereits wieder auf tatsächliche oder angenommene heidnische Traditionen projiziert. Die entsprechende Wechselwirkung und zugehörige Widersprüche sind bis in die Gegenwart verbreitet. Zudem sind der Charakter als Unruhenacht wie die Erneuerung und Weiterverbreitung in mehreren Wanderungsbewegungen Gegenstand volkskundlicher Forschung und machen mit den besonderen Charme und Reiz von Halloween aus.
Herleitung aus keltischen oder vorchristlichen Traditionen
Der Religionsethnologe Sir James Frazer beschrieb in seinem Standardwerk The Golden Bough (in der Ausgabe von 1922) Halloween als „altes heidnisches Totenfest mit einer dünnen christlichen Hülle“; neben dem Frühjahrsfest Beltane am 1. Mai (Walpurgisnacht) habe es sich um das zweite wichtige Fest der Kelten gehandelt. Nachgewiesen sei es seit dem 8. Jahrhundert, als christliche Synoden versuchten, solche „heidnischen Riten“ abzuschaffen.
Die Encyclopædia Britannica leitet das Fest aus alten keltischen Bräuchen her. Gefeiert wurde an Halloween demnach auch das Sommerende, der Einzug des Viehs in die Ställe. In dieser Zeit, so glaubte man, seien auch „die Seelen der Toten zu ihren Heimen zurückgekehrt“. Begangen wurde das Fest laut der Encyclopædia Britannica mit Freudenfeuern auf Hügeln (engl. bonfires, wörtlich Knochenfeuer; ursprünglich mit Bezugnahme auf das Verbrennen von Knochen des Schlachtviehs) und manchmal Verkleidungen, die der Vertreibung böser Geister dienten. Auch Wahrsagerei sei zu diesem Datum üblich gewesen.
Das 1927 bis 1942 erschienene Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens schreibt über den November: „Die Kelten, welche das Jahr vom November an rechneten, feierten zu Beginn dieses Monats ein großes Totenfest, für das die Kirche die Feste Allerheiligen und Allerseelen setzte“, und über Allerheiligen: „Auf keltischem Gebiete war das Anzünden großer Feuer üblich. […] Man kann am A.tage erfahren, was für ein Winter werden und wie sich die Zukunft – namentlich in Liebesangelegenheiten – gestalten wird. […] Die an A. (wie die am Christtag und in den Zwölften) Geborenen können Geister sehen.“
Meyers Konversations-Lexikon schreibt zur angeblichen keltischen Herkunft des Festes: „Legendenhaft und historisch nicht exakt zu beweisen ist eine direkte Verbindungslinie zu dem keltisch-angelsächsischen Fest des Totengottes Samhain. Aus der Verbindung mit diesem Totengott sollen sich die Gebräuche zu Halloween ableiten, vor allem der Bezug auf das Totenreich und Geister.
Die frühere Forschung vermutete den ältesten Hinweis auf das Samhain-Fest im schwer zu deutenden Kalender von Coligny aus dem 1. Jahrhundert n. Chr., dort als ein Fest des Sommerendes (keltisch samos, gälisch samhuinn für „Sommer“), oder zurückgehend auf das irogälische Wort für Versammlung, samain. Diese Vermutung wird heute wissenschaftlich nicht mehr vertreten. Auch ein angeblicher Totengott Samhain ist historisch nicht nachweisbar. Erst in deutlich späteren, mittelalterlichen Schriften über die Gebräuche der Kelten wird auf einen Bezug zum Totenreich hingewiesen. Diese sind bereits intensiv christlich beeinflusst (siehe auch Keltomanie).
Kontroversen um die Kontinuitätshypothese
Die These einer kontinuierlichen Entwicklung keltischer Bräuche zu modernen Halloweenbräuchen gilt als veraltet und unhaltbar.
Da Irland zu den am frühesten christianisierten Ländern Europas zählt, ist für Bernhard Maier eine quellenmäßig nirgendwo belegte direkte Kontinuität zu keltisch-heidnischen Riten gerade dort unwahrscheinlich und der keltischen Renaissance seit dem 19. Jahrhundert geschuldet. (Hierzu finden sich weitergehende Ansätze in den Artikeln Kelten – Rezeptionsgeschichte und Irische Renaissance).
Der englische Historiker Ronald Hutton sieht keine Belege für Samhain als Totenfest, betont aber, der Termin sei für die keltische Bevölkerung sicher eine Zeit gewesen, in welcher man sich gegen übernatürliche Kräfte wappnen musste. Das Allerheiligen- und Allerseelenfest mit der Toten-Thematik habe dann das ältere Samhainfest überlagert. Der Umgang mit Halloween ist nicht nur in Großbritannien von interkonfessionellen Unterschieden wie Gegensätzen geprägt. In Großbritannien liegen sie aufgrund des Gedenkens am Reformationstag wie an den Gunpowder Plot Guy Fawkes im zeitlichen Umfeld besonders nahe.
Die österreichische Ethnologin Editha Hörandner sieht die allfällig behaupteten keltischen oder heidnischen Ursprünge als historische Projektion, die regelrecht den Charakter eines Gütesiegels habe. Von Interesse für die Forschung sei weniger die längst widerlegte These einer ungebrochenen Kontinuität bis ins Altertum, sondern vor allem, wie sich die moderne Sehnsucht nach fiktiven keltischen Traditionen ausbilde und was darob verbreitet würde. Die verbreitete Praxis des Festes Halloween habe dabei mit diesen Vorstellungen wenig oder gar nichts zu tun und sei keineswegs heidnisch oder keltisch geprägt. Interessanter sei allemal die aktuelle Entwicklung von Halloween als Re-Import aus den USA.
Rolle als „Unruhnacht“
Einzelne Aspekte der Halloweenbräuche in den Ursprungsländern waren bereits in der frühen Neuzeit umstritten. Dazu gehörten weniger die zumeist christlich apostrophierten Heischebräuche, sondern Streiche, Ruhestörungen und Belästigungen vergleichbar anderen „Unruhnächten“ wie in Mitteleuropa der Walpurgisnacht und den Neujahr folgenden Rauhnächten.
Kirchliche Stellen in Großbritannien wandten sich wiederholt gegen einige mit Halloween in Verbindung stehende Bräuche, wie die sogenannten Bonfires (vgl. Funkenfeuer) und Wahrsagerei. 1589 wurden im schottischen Stirling die sog. „Hallowmas“-Feuer verboten. 1741 notiert ein Chronist aus Anglesey, die Halloween-Bonfires gingen dort zurück. 1852 ist laut Reverend John M. Wilsons Rural Cyclopedia Halloween einer der wichtigsten Feiertage insbesondere der Landbevölkerung in England und Schottland und werde ausgelassen begangen. Dabei beklagt er die „abergläubischen, heidnischen und höchst tadelnswerten Riten [der Landbevölkerung in Schottland], die gegen den gesunden Menschenverstand, die guten Sitten und die christliche Religion“ verstoßen würden. In England hingegen werde zumeist nur harmloser Schabernack („cheerful merry-making“) veranstaltet.[
Halloween wurde ursprünglich nur in katholisch gebliebenen Gebieten der britischen Inseln gefeiert, vor allem in Irland, während die anglikanische Kirche am Tag vor Allerheiligen die Reformation feierte. Von dort kam es mit den zahlreichen irischen Auswanderern im 19. Jahrhundert in die Vereinigten Staaten und gehörte zum Brauchtum dieser Volksgruppe. Aufgrund seiner Attraktivität wurde es bald von den anderen übernommen und entwickelte sich zu einem wichtigen Volksfest in den Vereinigten Staaten und Kanada.
Der Brauch, Kürbisse zum Halloweenfest aufzustellen, stammt aus Irland. Dort lebte einer Sage nach der Bösewicht Jack Oldfield. Dieser fing durch eine List den Teufel ein und wollte ihn nur freilassen, wenn er Jack O fortan nicht mehr in die Quere kommen würde. Nach Jacks Tod kam er aufgrund seiner Taten nicht in den Himmel, aber auch in die Hölle durfte Jack natürlich nicht, da er ja den Teufel betrogen hatte. Doch der Teufel erbarmte sich und schenkte ihm eine Rübe und eine glühende Kohle, damit Jack durch das Dunkel wandern könne. Der Ursprung des beleuchteten Kürbisses war demnach eigentlich eine beleuchtete Rübe, doch da in den USA Kürbisse in großen Mengen zur Verfügung standen, höhlte man stattdessen einen Kürbis aus. Dieser Kürbis war seither als Jack O’Lantern bekannt. Um böse Geister abzuschrecken, schnitt man Fratzen in Kürbisse, die vor dem Haus den Hof beleuchteten.
Amerikanische Halloweenbräuche verbreiteten sich von Frankreich ausgehend im Verlauf der 1990er Jahre nach Europa, wo sie einen fröhlichen und weniger schaurigen Charakter als in Nordamerika haben. Während in den Vereinigten Staaten öffentliche Klassenzimmer mit Hexenmotiven oder Rathausvorplätze mit Jack O’Lanterns geschmückt werden, ist Halloween-Schmuck in Europa auf einzelne Geschäftslokale oder Privaträume beschränkt. Speziell der Ausfall des Karnevals wegen des Golfkriegs 1991 förderte das Ausweichen auf den anschließenden Herbsttermin. Halloween wird seit Anfang der 90er Jahre in Europa als Anlass für Feste und Feiern gesehen, die sich thematisch an die Bräuche orientieren. Die zunehmende Beliebtheit, auch im deutschsprachigen Raum, führte im Übrigen zu einem Aufgriff der Thematik durch Unternehmen, welche thematisch passende Konsumgüter wie Literatur (Halloween-Kochbücher), Kostüme, Dekorationen oder Süßigkeiten bereitstellen. Seit 2010 ist das Umherziehen von Tür zu Tür, das klassische „Trick or Treat“ ein aufgegriffener Brauch in sehr vielen europäischen, asiatischen und südamerikanischen Ländern, sowie in Mosambik, Zimbabwe und Südafrika. Es wird allerdings fast ausschließlich am 31. Oktober praktiziert.
Das Halloweenbrauchtum stellt eine Mischung aus Herbst-, Löse-, Heische- und Verkleidungsbräuchen dar. In diesem Sinne ist es vergleichbar mit Bräuchen zu Kirchweih (Kilbesingen), zu Erntedank (Räbenlicht), zu Martini (Räbechilbi, Martinisingen, Martinssingen), zu Allerheiligen (Flenntippln, Rubebötz, Riabagoaschtern) sowie in der Vorweihnachtszeit (Bochselnacht, Rauhnacht, Anklöpfeln, Andreasnacht, Glowesabend, Sunnerklauslaufen) und zu Silvester (Rummelpottlaufen, Hulken). Eine gewisse Ähnlichkeit besteht in den USA zum mexikanischen Brauchtum am Tag der Toten.
Der bekannteste Brauch in Nordamerika besteht darin, dass Kinder von Haus zu Haus gehen und mit „Süßes, sonst gibt’s Saures“ (verkürzt: „Süßes oder Saures“, englisch: trick or treat – „Streich oder Leckerbissen“) die Bewohner auffordern, ihnen Süßigkeiten zu geben, weil sie ihnen sonst Streiche spielen. Verkleidungen sind zu Halloween sehr beliebt. Kinder wie Erwachsene verkleiden sich als Feen, Fledermäuse, Geister, Hexen, Kürbisse, Skelette, Zombies, Tote, Vampire und Ähnliches. Typische Halloweenfarben sind schwarz, orange, grau, weiß, gelb und rot. Die zeitweiligen Übergriffe bis zum vermehrten Vorkommen von Brandstiftungen und Sachbeschädigungen in den USA geben der Mischief Night zum 1. November einen ähnlichen Unruhnachtcharakter wie im mitteleuropäischen Brauchtum der Walpurgisnacht.
Mit steigender Beliebtheit Halloweens wurde Kritik von verschiedenen Seiten laut. In Deutschland wird kritisiert, dass die alten Bräuche zunehmend verdrängt werden, beispielsweise das Martinisingen am 10. bzw. 11. November, bei dem an den Haustüren Lieder gesungen und als Belohnung Gebäck, Früchte oder Süßigkeiten erwartet werden. Ebenso beklagt wird Vandalismus durch Häuserschmierereien oder Eierwürfe, die zu vermehrten Einsätzen der Polizei an Halloween führen.
Das Hochfest Allerheiligen, von dem Halloween seine Bezeichnung ableitet, gehört in einigen Bundesländern zu den sogenannten stillen Tagen. An stillen Tagen sind öffentliche Unterhaltungsveranstaltungen, die nicht dem ernsten Charakter dieser Tage entsprechen, verboten. Während in den vergangenen Jahren den Veranstaltern von Halloween-Partys in bayerischen Diskotheken Ausnahmegenehmigungen bis um drei Uhr nachts erteilt wurden, gab es 2008 einen Erlass vom bayerischen Innenministerium an die lokalen Ordnungsbehörden, keine Ausnahmegenehmigungen für Tanzveranstaltungen mehr zu erteilen. Manche evangelische Christen bedauern das zeitliche Zusammentreffen mit dem Reformationstag, der am gleichen Tag an die Reformation erinnern soll. Beide Konfessionen versuchen, das gerade bei Jugendlichen große Bedürfnis nach Halloween anzusprechen und dabei die Feiertage im Umfeld einzubeziehen und wiederzubeleben.
Insbesondere evangelikale Christen in den Vereinigten Staaten distanzieren sich sehr scharf von Halloween und vertreten die Meinung, dass mit dem Fest Missbrauch durch satanistische Vereinigungen getrieben werden könne, und lehnen Halloween als „okkult“ ab. Andere verteidigen einen ungezwungenen Umgang mit Spuk und dem Unheimlichen an Halloween durch Christen.
In den USA bekannt und umstritten ist die zeitlich begrenzte Errichtung sogenannter „Hell Houses“, die oft zeitlich parallel zu Halloween errichtet werden und aus Darstellungen der ewigen Verdammnis, des Himmels und eines zugehörigen Laster- und Tugendenkatalogs bestehen. Zuweilen kommt es dabei zu ungewollten Verwechslungen mit kommerziellen Halloweenveranstaltungen.
Halloween or Hallowe’en (/ˌhæləˈwiːn, -oʊˈiːn, ˌhɑːl-/; a contraction of "All Hallows’ Evening"), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using "humor and ridicule to confront the power of death."
According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.
Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related "guising"), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted house attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although in other locations, these solemn customs are less pronounced in favor of a more commercialized and secularized celebration. Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.
The word Halloween or Hallowe’en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word "Halloween" means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening". It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day). In Scots, the word "eve" is even, and this is contracted to e’en or een. Over time, (All) Hallow(s) Eve(n) evolved into Halloween. Although the phrase "All Hallows’" is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, all saints mass-day), "All Hallows’ Eve" is itself not seen until 1556.
Today’s Halloween customs are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the Celtic-speaking countries, some of which have pagan roots, and others which may be rooted in Celtic Christianity. Indeed, Jack Santino, a folklorist, writes that "the sacred and the religious are a fundamental context for understanding Halloween in Northern Ireland, but there was throughout Ireland an uneasy truce existing between customs and beliefs associated with Christianity and those associated with religions that were Irish before Christianity arrived". Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain", which comes from the Old Irish for "summer’s end". Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-in) was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It was held on or about 31 October – 1 November and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year by the Brittonic Celts; for example Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall) and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany). Samhain and Calan Gaeaf are mentioned in some of the earliest Irish and Welsh literature. The names have been used by historians to refer to Celtic Halloween customs up until the 19th century, and are still the Gaelic and Welsh names for Halloween.
Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. Like Beltane/Calan Mai, it was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world and were particularly active. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as "degraded versions of ancient gods […] whose power remained active in the people’s minds even after they had been officially replaced by later religious beliefs". The Aos Sí were both respected and feared, with individuals often invoking the protection of God when approaching their dwellings. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left for the Aos Sí. The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes. Places were set at the dinner table or by the fire to welcome them. The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night or day of the year seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures throughout the world. In 19th century Ireland, "candles would be lit and prayers formally offered for the souls of the dead. After this the eating, drinking, and games would begin". Throughout the Gaelic and Welsh regions, the household festivities included rituals and games intended to divine one’s future, especially regarding death and marriage. Nuts and apples were often used in these divination rituals. Special bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them. Their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and were also used for divination. It is suggested that the fires were a kind of imitative or sympathetic magic – they mimicked the Sun, helping the "powers of growth" and holding back the decay and darkness of winter. Christian minister Eddie J. Smith suggests that the bonfires were also used to scare witches of "their awaiting punishment in hell"
In modern Ireland, Scotland, Mann and Wales, the festival included mumming and guising, the latter of which goes back at least as far as the 16th century. This involved people going house-to-house in costume (or in disguise), usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. It may have come from the Christian custom of souling (see below) or it may have a Gaelic folk origin, with the costumes being a means of imitating, or disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. In Scotland, youths went house-to-house on 31 October with masked, painted or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed. F. Marian McNeill suggests the ancient festival included people in costume representing the spirits, and that faces were marked (or blackened) with ashes taken from the sacred bonfire. In parts of Wales, men went about dressed as fearsome beings called gwrachod. In the late 19th and early 20th century, young people in Glamorgan and Orkney dressed as the opposite gender. In parts of southern Ireland, the guisers included a hobby horse. A man dressed as a Láir Bhán (white mare) led youths house-to-house reciting verses—some of which had pagan overtones—in exchange for food. If the household donated food it could expect good fortune from the ‘Muck Olla’; not doing so would bring misfortune. Elsewhere in Europe, mumming and hobby horses were part of other yearly festivals. However, in the Celtic-speaking regions they were "particularly appropriate to a night upon which supernatural beings were said to be abroad and could be imitated or warded off by human wanderers". As early as the 18th century, "imitating malignant spirits" led to playing pranks in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. Wearing costumes at Halloween spread to England in the 20th century, as did the custom of playing pranks. The "traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters abroad on the night in some places was provided by turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins". These were common in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands in the 19th century, as well as in Somerset (see Punkie Night). In the 20th century they spread to other parts of England and became generally known as jack-o’-lanterns
Today’s Halloween customs are also thought to have been influenced by Christian dogma and practices derived from it. Halloween falls on the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas) on 1 November and All Souls’ Day on 2 November, thus giving the holiday on 31 October the full name of All Hallows’ Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows’ Day). Since the time of the primitive Church, major feasts in the Christian Church (such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) had vigils which began the night before, as did the feast of All Hallows’. These three days are collectively referred to as Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven. All Saints was introduced in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on 13 May. In 835, it was switched to 1 November (the same date as Samhain) at the behest of Pope Gregory IV. Some suggest this was due to Celtic influence, while others suggest it was a Germanic idea. It is also suggested that the change was made on the "practical grounds that Rome in summer could not accommodate the great number of pilgrims who flocked to it", and perhaps because of public health considerations regarding Roman Fever – a disease that claimed a number of lives during the sultry summers of the region.
By the end of the 12th century they had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing church bells for the souls in purgatory. In addition, "it was customary for criers dressed in black to parade the streets, ringing a bell of mournful sound and calling on all good Christians to remember the poor souls." "Souling", the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating. The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century and was found in parts of England, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593). The custom of wearing costumes has been explicated by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities". In the Middle Ages, churches displayed the relics of martyred saints and those parishes that were too poor to have relics let parishioners dress up as the saints instead, a practice that some Christians continue in Halloween celebrations today. folklorist Kingsley Palmer, in addition to others, has suggested that the carved jack-o’-lantern, a popular symbol of Halloween, originally represented the souls of the dead. On Halloween, in medieval Europe, "fires [were] lit to guide these souls on their way and deflect them from haunting honest Christian folk." In addition, households in Austria, England, Ireland often had "candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes". These were known as "soul lights". Many Christians in continental Europe, especially in France, acknowledged "a belief that once a year, on Hallowe’en, the dead of the churchyards rose for one wild, hideous carnival," known as the danse macabre, which has been commonly depicted in church decoration, especially on the walls of cathedrals, monasteries, and cemeteries. Christopher Allmand and Rosamond McKitterick write in The New Cambridge Medieval History that "Christians were moved by the sight of the Infant Jesus playing on his mother’s knee; their hearts were touched by the Pietà; and patron saints reassured them by their presence. But, all the while, the danse macabre urged them not to forget the end of all earthly things." This danse macabre, which was enacted by "Christian village children [who] celebrated the vigil of All Saints" in the 16th Century, has been suggested as the predecessor of modern day costume parties on this same day.
In parts of Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as some Protestants berated purgatory as a "popish" doctrine incompatible with the notion of predestination. Thus, for some Nonconformist Protestants, the theology of All Hallows’ Eve was redefined; without the doctrine of purgatory, "the returning souls cannot be journeying from Purgatory on their way to Heaven, as Catholics frequently believe and assert. Instead, the so-called ghosts are thought to be in actuality evil spirits. As such they are threatening." Other Protestants maintained belief in an intermediate state, known as Hades (Bosom of Abraham), and continued to observe the original customs, especially souling, candlelit processions and the ringing of church bells in memory of the dead. With regard to the evil spirits, on Halloween, "barns and homes were blessed to protect people and livestock from the effect of witches, who were believed to accompany the malignant spirits as they traveled the earth." In the 19th century, in some rural parts of England, families gathered on hills on the night of All Hallows’ Eve. One held a bunch of burning straw on a pitchfork while the rest knelt around him in a circle, praying for the souls of relatives and friends until the flames went out. This was known as teen’lay, derived either from the Old English tendan (meaning to kindle) or a word related to Old Irish tenlach (meaning hearth). The rising popularity of Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) from 1605 onward, saw many Halloween traditions appropriated by that holiday instead, and Halloween’s popularity waned in Britain, with the noteworthy exception of Scotland. There and in Ireland, they had been celebrating Samhain and Halloween since at least the early Middle Ages, and the Scottish kirk took a more pragmatic approach to Halloween, seeing it as important to the life cycle and rites of passage of communities and thus ensuring its survival in the country.
In France, some Christian families, on the night of All Hallows’ Eve, prayed beside the graves of their loved ones, setting down dishes full of milk for them. On Halloween, in Italy, some families left a large meal out for ghosts of their passed relatives, before they departed for church services. In Spain, on this night, special pastries are baked, known as "bones of the holy" (Spanish: Huesos de Santo) and put them on the graves of the churchyard, a practice that continues to this day.
Lesley Bannatyne and Cindy Ott both write that Anglican colonists in the South and Catholic colonists in Maryland "recognized All Hallow’s Eve in their church calendars", although the Puritans of New England maintained strong opposition to the holiday, along with other traditional celebrations of the established Church, including Christmas. Mass Irish and Scottish immigration during the 19th century increased the holiday’s celebration in the United States. "In Cajun areas, a nocturnal Mass was said in cemeteries on Halloween night. Candles that had been blessed were placed on graves, and families sometimes spent the entire night at the graveside." Confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-19th century, it was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the 20th century it was being celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.
The annual New York Halloween Parade, initiated in 1974 by puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee of the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village in New York City, is the world’s largest Halloween parade and America’s only major nighttime parade, attracting more than 60,000 costumed participants, 2 million in-person spectators, and a worldwide television audience of over 100 million.
Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. Jack-o’-lanterns are traditionally carried by guisers on All Hallows’ Eve in order to frighten evil spirits. There is a popular Irish Christian folktale associated with the jack-o’-lantern, which in lore, is said to represent a "soul who has been denied entry into both heaven and hell"
In Ireland and Scotland, the turnip has traditionally been carved during Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which is both much softer and much larger – making it easier to carve than a turnip. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837 and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.
The modern imagery of Halloween comes from many sources, including Christian eschatology, national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula) and classic horror films (such as Frankenstein and The Mummy). Imagery of the skull, a reference to Golgotha, in the Christian tradition, serves as "a reminder of death and the transitory quality of human life" and is consequently found in memento mori and vanitas compositions; skulls have therefore been commonplace in Halloween, which touches on this theme. Traditionally, the back walls of churches are "decorated with a depiction of the Last Judgment, complete with graves opening and the dead rising, with a heaven filled with angels and a hell filled with devils," a motif that has permeated the observance of this triduum. One of the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne, who, in 1780, made note of pranks at Halloween; "What fearfu’ pranks ensue!", as well as the supernatural associated with the night, "Bogies" (ghosts), influencing Robert Burns’ "Halloween" (1785). Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween. Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil, and mythical monsters. Black, orange, and sometimes purple are Halloween’s traditional colors.
Trick-or-treating and guising
Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" The word "trick" refers to "threat" to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. The practice is said to have roots in the medieval practice of mumming, which is closely related to souling (discussed above). John Pymm writes that "many of the feast days associated with the presentation of mumming plays were celebrated by the Christian Church." These feast days included All Hallows’ Eve, Christmas, Twelfth Night and Shrove Tuesday. Mumming, practiced in Germany, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, involved masked persons in fancy dress who "paraded the streets and entered houses to dance or play dice in silence." Their "basic narrative framework is the story of St. George and the Seven Champions of Christendom."
In England, from the medieval period, up until the 1930s, people practiced the Christian custom of souling on Halloween, which involved groups of soulers, both Protestant and Catholic, going from parish to parish, begging the rich for soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the souls of the givers and their friends. In Scotland and Ireland, guising – children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins – is a traditional Halloween custom, and is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practice of guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood.
American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts wrote the first book length history of Halloween in the US; The Book of Hallowe’en (1919), and references souling in the chapter "Hallowe’en in America":
The taste in Hallowe’en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burns’ poem Hallowe’en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe’en is out of fashion now.
In her book, Kelley touches on customs that arrived from across the Atlantic; "Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Halloween customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries". While the first reference to "guising" in North America occurs in 1911, another reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920.
The earliest known use in print of the term "trick or treat" appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta, Canada:
Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.
The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but not trick-or-treating. The editor of a collection of over 3,000 vintage Halloween postcards writes, "There are cards which mention the custom [of trick-or-treating] or show children in costumes at the doors, but as far as we can tell they were printed later than the 1920s and more than likely even the 1930s. Tricksters of various sorts are shown on the early postcards, but not the means of appeasing them". Trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the first U.S. appearances of the term in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939.
A popular variant of trick-or-treating, known as trunk-or-treating (or Halloween tailgaiting), occurs when "children are offered treats from the trunks of cars parked in a church parking lot," or sometimes, a school parking lot. In a trunk-or-treat event, the trunk (boot) of each automobile is decorated with a certain theme, such as those of children’s literature, movies, scripture, and job roles. Because the traditional style of trick-or-treating was made impossible after Hurricane Katrina, trunk-or-treating provided comfort to those whose homes were devastated. Trunk-or-treating has grown in popularity due to its perception as being more safe than going door to door, a point that resonates well with parents, as well as the fact that it "solves the rural conundrum in which homes [are] built a half-mile apart".
Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, in the United States the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses.
Dressing up in costumes and going "guising" was prevalent in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween by the late 19th century. Costuming became popular for Halloween parties in the US in the early 20th century, as often for adults as for children. The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in the United States.
Rev. Dr. Eddie J. Smith, in his book Halloween, Hallowed Be Thy Name, offers a religious perspective to the wearing of costumes on All Hallows’ Eve, suggesting that by dressing up as creatures "who at one time caused us to fear and tremble", people are able to poke fun at Satan "whose kingdom has been plundered by our Saviour." Images of skeletons and the dead are traditional decorations used as memento mori.
"Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" is a fundraising program to support UNICEF, a United Nations Programme that provides humanitarian aid to children in developing countries. Started as a local event in a Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood in 1950 and expanded nationally in 1952, the program involves the distribution of small boxes by schools (or in modern times, corporate sponsors like Hallmark, at their licensed stores) to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small-change donations from the houses they visit. It is estimated that children have collected more than $118 million for UNICEF since its inception. In Canada, in 2006, UNICEF decided to discontinue their Halloween collection boxes, citing safety and administrative concerns; after consultation with schools, they instead redesigned the program.
There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. One common game is dunking or apple bobbing, which may be called "dooking" in Scotland in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. The practice is thought by some to have derived from the Roman practices in celebration of Pomona. A variant of dunking involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drive the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity that inevitably leads to a very sticky face.
Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. In All Hallows’ Eve celebrations during the Middle Ages, these activities historically occurred only in rural areas of medieval Europe and were only done by a "rare few" as these were considered to be "deadly serious" practices. A traditional Scottish form of divining one’s future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one’s shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse’s name. Unmarried women were told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Another game/superstition that was enjoyed in the early 1900s involved walnut shells. People would write fortunes in milk on white paper. After drying, the paper was folded and placed in walnut shells. When the shell was warmed, milk would turn brown therefore the writing would appear on what looked like blank paper. Folks would also play fortune teller. In order to play this game, symbols were cut out of paper and placed on a platter. Someone would enter a dark room and was ordered to put her hand on a piece of ice then lay it on a platter. Her "fortune" would stick to the hand. Paper symbols included: dollar sign-wealth, button-bachelorhood, thimble-spinsterhood, clothespin- poverty, rice-wedding, umbrella- journey, caldron-trouble, 4-leaf clover- good luck, penny-fortune, ring-early marriage, and key-fame.
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of television series and Hallowe’en-themed specials (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before Halloween, while new horror films are often released theatrically before Halloween to take advantage of the atmosphere.
Haunted attractions are entertainment venues designed to thrill and scare patrons. Most attractions are seasonal Halloween businesses. Origins of these paid scare venues are difficult to pinpoint, but it is generally accepted that they were first commonly used by the Junior Chamber International (Jaycees) for fundraising. They include haunted houses, corn mazes, and hayrides, and the level of sophistication of the effects has risen as the industry has grown. Haunted attractions in the United States bring in an estimated $300–500 million each year, and draw some 400,000 customers, although press sources writing in 2005 speculated that the industry had reached its peak at that time. This maturing and growth within the industry has led to technically more advanced special effects and costuming, comparable with that of Hollywood films.
On All Hallows’ Eve, many Western Christian denominations encourage abstinence from meat, giving rise to a variety of vegetarian foods associated with this day.
Because in the Northern Hemisphere Halloween comes in the wake of the yearly apple harvest, candy apples (known as toffee apples outside North America), caramel or taffy apples are common Halloween treats made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, sometimes followed by rolling them in nuts.
At one time, candy apples were commonly given to trick-or-treating children, but the practice rapidly waned in the wake of widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples in the United States. While there is evidence of such incidents, relative to the degree of reporting of such cases, actual cases involving malicious acts are extremely rare and have never resulted in serious injury. Nonetheless, many parents assumed that such heinous practices were rampant because of the mass media. At the peak of the hysteria, some hospitals offered free X-rays of children’s Halloween hauls in order to find evidence of tampering. Virtually all of the few known candy poisoning incidents involved parents who poisoned their own children’s candy.
One custom that persists in modern-day Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays, the purchase) of a barmbrack (Irish: báirín breac), which is a light fruitcake, into which a plain ring, a coin and other charms are placed before baking. It is said that those who get a ring will find their true love in the enList of foods associated with Halloween:
Bonfire toffee (Great Britain)
Candy apples/toffee apples (Great Britain and Ireland)
Candy apples, Candy corn, candy pumpkins (North America)
Monkey nuts (peanuts in their shells) (Scotland and Ireland)
Colcannon (Ireland; see below)
Novelty candy shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms, etc.
Pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted sweet corn
suing year. This is similar to the tradition of king cake at the festival of Epiphany.
On Hallowe’en (All Hallows’ Eve), in Poland, believers are taught to pray out loud as they walk through the forests in order that the souls of the dead might find comfort; in Spain, Christian priests toll their church bells in order to remind their congregants to remember the dead on All Hallows’ Eve. In Ireland, and among immigrants in Canada, a custom includes the Christian practice of abstinence, keeping All Hallows’ Eve "as a meatless day with pancakes or Callcannon" being served instead. In Mexico, on "All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit." The Christian Church traditionally observed Hallowe’en through a vigil "when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself." This church service is known as the Vigil of All Hallows or the Vigil of All Saints; an initiative known as Night of Light seeks to further spread the Vigil of All Hallows throughout Christendom. After the service, "suitable festivities and entertainments" often follow, as well as a visit to the graveyard or cemetery, where flowers and candles are often placed in preparation for All Hallows’ Day. In Finland, because so many people visit the cemeteries on All Hallows’ Eve to light votive candles there, they "are known as valomeri, or seas of light."
Christian attitudes towards Halloween are diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions associated with All Hallow’s Eve. Some of these practises include praying, fasting and attending worship services.
Other Protestant Christians also celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as Reformation Day, a day to remember the Protestant Reformation, alongside All Hallow’s Eve or independently from it. This is because Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on All Hallows’ Eve, because hundreds of visitors would come to the church during the celebration of Allhallowtide. Often, "Harvest Festivals" or "Reformation Festivals" are held on All Hallows’ Eve, in which children dress up as Bible characters or Reformers. In addition to distributing candy to children who are trick-or-treating on Hallowe’en, many Christians also provide gospel tracts to them. One organization, the American Tract Society, stated that around 3 million gospel tracts are ordered from them alone for Hallowe’en celebrations. Others order Halloween-themed Scripture Candy to pass out to children on this day.[
Some Christians feel concerned about the modern celebration of Halloween because they feel it trivializes – or celebrates – paganism, the occult, or other practices and cultural phenomena deemed incompatible with their beliefs. Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist in Rome, has said, "if English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that." In more recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has organized a "Saint Fest" on Halloween. Similarly, many contemporary Protestant churches view Halloween as a fun event for children, holding events in their churches where children and their parents can dress up, play games, and get candy for free. Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a fun event devoted to "imaginary spooks" and handing out candy. To these Christians, Halloween holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality, and the ways of the Celtic ancestors actually being a valuable life lesson and a part of many of their parishioners’ heritage.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Halloween’s Christian connection is cited, and Halloween celebrations are common in Catholic parochial schools throughout North America and in Ireland. Many fundamentalist and evangelical churches use "Hell houses", themed pamphlets, or comic-style tracts such as those created by Jack T. Chick in order to make use of Halloween’s popularity as an opportunity for evangelism. Some consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith due to its putative origins in the Festival of the Dead celebration. Indeed, even though Eastern Orthodox Christians observe All Hallows’ Day on the First Sunday after Pentecost, the Eastern Orthodox Church recommends the observance of Vespers and/or a Paraklesis on the Western observance of All Hallows’ Eve, out of the pastoral need to provide an alternative to popular celebrations.
The reaction of non-Christian religions towards Halloween has often been mixed, ranging from stern disapproval to the allowance of participation in it. According to Alfred J. Kolatch in the Second Jewish Book of Why, in Judaism, Halloween is not permitted by Jewish Halakha because it violates Leviticus 18:3 which forbids Jews from partaking in gentile customs. Many Jews observe Yizkor, which is equivalent to the observance of Allhallowtide in Christianity, as prayers are said for both "martyrs and for one’s own family." Nevertheless many American Jews celebrate Halloween, disconnected from its Christian origins. Reform Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser has said that "There is no religious reason why contemporary Jews should not celebrate Halloween" while Orthodox Rabbi Michael Broyde has argued against Jews observing the holiday. Sheikh Idris Palmer, author of A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam , has argued that Muslims should not participate in Halloween, stating that "participation in it is similar to one commemorating Christmas or Easter, or congratulating the Christians upon their prostration to the crucifix". Javed Memon, a Muslim writer, has disagreed, saying that his "daughter dressing up like a British telephone booth will not destroy her faith". Most Hindus do not observe All Hallows’ Eve, instead remembering the dead in the festival of Pitru Paksha, during which Hindus pay homage to and perform a ceremony "to keep the souls of their ancestors at rest." The celebration of the Hindu festival Diwali sometimes conflicts with the date of Halloween; but some Hindus choose to participate in the popular customs of Halloween. Other Hindus, such as Soumya Dasgupta, have opposed the celebration on the grounds that Western holidays like Halloween have "begun to adversely affect our indigenous festivals." Neopagans do not observe Halloween, but instead observe Samhain on 1 November, although some neopagan individuals choose to participate in cultural Halloween festivities, opining the idea that one can observe both "the solemnity of Samhain in addition to the fun of Halloween." Other neopagans are opposed to the celebration of Halloween, believing that it "trivializes Samhain", and "avoid Halloween, because of the interruptions from trick or treaters." The Manitoban writes that "Wiccans don’t officially celebrate Halloween, despite the fact that 31 Oct. will still have a star beside it in any good Wiccan’s day planner. Starting at sundown, Wiccans celebrate a holiday known as Samhain. Samhain actually comes from old Celtic traditions and is not exclusive to Neopagan religions like Wicca. While the traditions of this holiday originate in Celtic countries, modern day Wiccans don’t try to historically replicate Samhain celebrations. Some traditional Samhain rituals are still practised but at its core, the holiday is simply a time to celebrate darkness and the dead — a possible reason why Samhain is often confused with Halloween celebrations.
The traditions and importance of Halloween vary greatly among countries that observe it. In Scotland and Ireland, traditional Halloween customs include children dressing up in costume going "guising", holding parties, while other practices in Ireland include lighting bonfires, and having firework displays. In Brittany children would set candles in skulls in graveyards. Mass transatlantic immigration in the 19th century popularized Halloween in North America, and celebration in the United States and Canada has had a significant impact on how the event is observed in other nations. This larger North American influence, particularly in iconic and commercial elements, has extended to places such as South America, Australia, New Zealand, (most) continental Europe, Japan, and other parts of East Asia. In the Philippines, on the night of Halloween, Filipinos return to their hometowns and purchase candles and flowers, in preparation for the following All Saints Day and All Souls Day (Araw ng Patay) on 1 November.
List of fiction works about Halloween
List of films set around Halloween
List of Halloween television specials
St. John’s Eve
All Saints Day
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