Halloween has been long celebrated in the British Isles, and only abandoned in the mid 20th Century for reasons I cannot really understand. Although I have a theory that this may have been due the decimation of population in WW1 bolstered by the massed abandoning of everything ‘old’ in the post-WW2 era. After years of austerity – from the General Strike followed by the Depression followed by the rationing of WW2 that went on right into the 1950s meant that people, tired of making do and mending, splurged on everything that was new and shiny, and Barry Bucknell extolled the virtues of covering ‘ugly old fashioned’ doors with plywood. The space-age was upon us with a vengeance. My theory and no more. I do not profess to be an authority on the subject.
Returning to Hallowe’en, All Hallows, Punkie Night or any of the dozens of other names given, it has always been a time associated with divination and contact with the dead. In the UK Guy Fawkes Night took over many of the traditional aspects of the celebrations with children asking a ‘penny for the guy’ rather than the forgotten making of grottoes. St Crispins day was also a time for public displays of judgment against neighbours, and of course the Celtic celebration of Samhain that ushered in the dark days of winter with festivals of fire and light.
The list of traditions are seemingly endless just within these Isles alone, but does Halloween come from America? No, it does not. They have kindly held it in safe keeping for a while and have returned it to us now.
We have the same traditions of toffee and ginger bread and all manner of sweet things, potatoes baked in the fire’s embers, fireworks and mischief. Granted the new ‘improved’ version may perhaps with a little more fanfare and fancy dress, but essentially the ushering in off winter at Samhain is the same as it ever was!