Halloween has been celebrated in Britain for centuries and, although some of the traditions have been borrowed from America (pumpkin carving and trick or treating), the foundation stone of Halloween is firmly planted in Britain. But what are the origins of Halloween – and how much of it is still distinctly British?
Celtic festival of Samhain
Halloween is firmly rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain. The pre-Christian Celtic year revolved around the growing season, and Samhain signified the end of both summer and the harvest, and the start of the cold, dark winter.
Druids led the Samhain celebrations, lighting bonfires in the village to ward away any evil spirits that may be lurking – as Samhain also symbolised the boundary between the living and the dead. Not only would their deceased loved ones visit them during this time – the spirits of evil ones would too. The Druids would ensure that all of the hearths in every home in the village were lit from the embers of these huge sacred bonfires – to help continue protecting the villagers and to keep them warm over the winter months.
The Romans conquered much of the Celtic lands, bringing their own celebrations here. The tradition of bobbing for apples may well have come from an assimilation between a Roman celebration and Samhain – as the Roman goddess of fruit and trees was Pomona and an apple was her symbol!
All Hallows Day
When Christianity came to Britain, they bought their own festivals with them – one being ‘All Hallows Day’ or ‘All Saints Day’ – and this marked those who had died for their beliefs. Although it was originally celebrated in May, in the 8th century it was moved to November, thought to either replace or assimilate the Celtic Samhain festival with a Christian one.
The evening before Samhain became known as ‘Hallow Eve’ or ‘Hallow’en’ for short. Every year, on this particular night, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest and magic is at its strongest. It is said that spirits can contact the physical world during this time. Carving faces on vegetables and lighting them up from within with a candle, could help ward off any evil spirits that may roam. It was – and still is – the perfect time to get together, tell ghost stories and to be afraid!
Halloween Fancy Dress Magic and Disco Supper
Are you ready to don your scariest fancy dress outfit? Here at the Grim’s Dyke we’re hosting an evening of fancy dress, magic and supper. For £49 per person (£79 per guest, if you’d like a bedroom after the event and breakfast in the morning) you can enjoy main course, dessert with tea, coffee and petit fours and entertainment.
Trick or treat fancy dress prizes will be awarded at the end of the night. This event is for over 18’s only, and you’ll receive a complimentary witches brew on arrival. Our Halloween Supper is on Saturday 31st October and we suggest you arrive at 7pm in the Lobby and the Library Bar, for a 7.30pm start on the Supper and entertainment in the Music Room.
This event always sells out early – so make sure you book your place now, by calling our reservations team on 020 8385 3100 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org