Hallowe’en (Halloween) October 31st

miniature halloween
© F H Powell 2008

Originally All Hallows Eve, Hallowe’en is now best known for its association with ghosts, witches and all things scary. But the original celebration was a pagan festival that was adopted by Christianity. All Hallows Eve is the eve of All Hallows Day, known now as All Saints Day. But it wasn’t until the middle of the 9th Century that All Hallows Day was moved from May 11th to November 1st.

The celebration of Hallowe’en as we know it today with its accent on the supernatural began in Ireland. The Celtic New Year started on November 1st and the festival of Samhain celebrated on October 31st marked the end of the season of the sun. The long hours of winter darkness were believed to bring evil spirits. The lighting of bonfires to ward away evil spirits was common but this tradition in the UK has now become more associated with November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night. It was also believed that by adopting a disguise malevolent spirits would not recognise the living.

During the 19th Century Irish immigrants took Hallowe’en traditions to North America. Here the custom of Trick or Treating grew up. Children call house-to-house requesting a treat (usually confectionary), failure to treat is returned with a trick on the person or property. A recent survey indicated that over 90 percent of American children go trick or treating each year. The spread of trick or treating to the UK has been met by police threat to prosecute parents of children who carry out tricks on people or property.

There are many symbols associated with Hallowe’en most notably a carved pumpkin lit from within by a candle (known in North America as a jack-o’lantern). Again based on a Celtic tradition, the head being thought to be the most powerful part of the body and containing spirit and knowledge. The tradition was to carve a turnip in the shape of a head and light it, but the availability and ease of using pumpkins in the US has now superseded the turnip.

Witches are also associated with Hallowe’en. Traditionally witches were associated with evil or black magic. Many poor innocent women were killed in early European witch-hunts to cleanse the land of these evildoers. There were believed to be many items that witches used to go about their work. These included a broom to fly on, a caldron to mix up spells and a black cat. Dressing up as a witch in a dark cloak and pointy black hat is carried on as part of the Hallowe’en tradition today (a highly dangerous practice in the years 1500 -1700!).

So wherever you celebrate Hallowe’en this year why not add your dolls house to the celebrations.

Hallowe’en dolls house tip: tease out polyester stuffing into very thin wisps to create authentic looking cobwebs!

More information on Hallowe’en can be found on a previous blog.