With the season of autumn just around the corner, closely followed by bitter winds and the faint jingle of sleigh bells, we wanted to celebrate the spookiest of festivals, All Hallows’ Eve, better known as Halloween! So, before you think about getting the Christmas decorations out, indulge in some horror stories or join us on a London pub tour this October, where we visit some infamous locations linked to some of the darkest characters in the city’s history.

Halloween

Halloween – it’s a time for spooks and ghouls, scary movies, psychologically thrilling games and, of course, the classic trick or treat.

In South America, 31st October kicks off the Dia de Los Muertos festival ending with All Souls Day on November 2nd. The festival, celebrated in Latin American countries including Mexico, honours deceased relatives and translates to “Day of the Dead”. While celebrations in the Western world typically don’t last as long, have you put any thought into the origins of the festival that is Halloween?

Where it Began

Halloween originated in Ireland where the festival of Samhain was celebrated as part of the ancient Celtic religion. The Celts thought that the barrier between our world and the spirit world began to thin towards the end of the summer and that the creatures of the spirit world would be able to cross over and walk amongst us.

The spirits of deceased family members and supernatural beings that were thought to live in the “Otherworld” were offered food or drink, which was left outside each property as a token of goodwill and was thought to protect the families within and their homes and farmlands from unappeased spirits.

The festival took place over several days when the Celts would play games such as apple bobbing, a tradition which still survives today.

Christian Influences

Modern day Halloween is a mix of the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain and influences introduced by the Christians, Pagans and their practices. The tradition of dressing in costumes, for example, is taken from the Christian practice of “souling” in which Christians would walk the streets with a hollowed out, candle-lit turnip, going door-to-door and exchanging soul cakes as gifts to the spirits. Costumes were worn to protect the identity of the “soulers” when the veil between our world and the spirit world was thin and spirits were able to walk the streets.

The festival of Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is tied to numerous origins, including the Celts, Christians and Pagans. Although traditions are still practised today, they have changed over the centuries and evolved into the holiday we know and celebrate today.

So, will you be carving pumpkins this Halloween, attending an exciting costume party or will you be joining us on a spooky walk around some of the infamous London pubs that Jack the Ripper used to haunt?