Tonight’s the night we teach kids the valuable lesson of the power of extortion or as it’s now known ‘trick or treating’. With this in mind it’s easy to appreciate that Halloween is a quintessentially American festival.
And it is indeed an American import – twenty years ago Halloween was pretty much confined to Scotland and Ireland – but the numerous retail opportunities for selling cheap and tacky scary shit were too irresistible.
And so another ‘tradition’ was invented much like Father’s Day (a totally synthetic event manufactured by the greetings card industry). In fact Halloween does have a bit more of a solid origin than that. It came to the USA from Scotland – the first written reference to it is in Robbie Burns – and it derives from All Hallows or All Saints Day – a festival in the Christian calendar.
But that’s not the whole story.
The Christians, as so often is the case, nicked the idea from a Celtic pagan festival – Samhain. There was an original Christian festival of the dead in May but somewhere in the Eighth Century, when the Christians were recruiting amongst the pagans, they swapped over the date to November so that they could capitalize on the existing celebrations.
For the pagans Samhain marked the end of the ‘light’ half of the year and the start of the ‘dark’ – it was marked with what was essentially a piss up around a camp fire. A time of celebration after the harvest and before the cold of winter set in.There’s no evidence that I’m aware of that confectionary was given to kids in exchange for not getting your windows egged - presumably that’s a later development.
So ironically all those Christian-mentalists who get hot under the collar about kids celebrating Halloween might actually have a point.
Still, bollocks to ‘em – lets celebrate the dark side tonight.