Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they marked Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.
As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” which were public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbours would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.
In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularise the celebration of Halloween nationally.
Did you know? One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.
Did you know? More people are buying costumes for their pets. Americans spent nearly $500 million on costumes for their pets in 2021 - more than double what they spent in 2010.
In New Zealand many have adopted some of the celebrations and food and festivities from USA.
In Whitianga, the children really just love to dress up. Some like to look scarey and often they are the gentlest of children. All were interested to get some sweets or candy. The beliefs of ancient times are not given a thought.
Personally, it was very enjoyable greeting the children and giving away the sweets. There was a happiness in the air. They were a delight. Teenagers got into the spirit, many helping younger brothers and sisters.
Thank you to the businesses who were able to offer their premises, do a bit of Halloween decorating and give out sweets to the children (there are a lot of requests of businesses and this recent period has not been a boon for businesses) - Bayleys, Styled Spaces, Cut Hut, Subway, Sovereign Pier, Four Square, CFM and The Informer.
Thank you to All About Whiti for their invitations, and promotion of the events of that afternoon and evening.
Thank you to the Trick or Treat friendly houses – you let it be known that your home would welcome children and give away candy.
Full of fun but not so scary! The Light Part
It’s a fact that some people do not like Halloween and all its scary images. To put another spin on the eve of the 31st of October a group of organisations, principally Churches stage an alternative children’s event. Under the name ‘Light Party’ this alternative event has some of features of Halloween – dress ups, sweets, games etc. but with no emphasis on the gruesome or macabre. Light parties are fun events for families who don’t see the benefit of scary hags, living skeletons and huge spiders. The light party in Whitianga Baptist church applauded the positive and the hopeful. In contrast to the Halloween focus on death and gloom. This year’s Whitianga light party took as it’s theme ‘Jesus the light of the world’.
Thirty-six children attended the Whitianga event which was led by Damon Christenson. Financial support was given by the Mercury Bay Community Support Trust.
It is interesting to note that Halloween was not much celebrated in New Zealand before the 1990s. It is now clearly established as a marketing bonanza. Originally a Celtic festival in which the Celts believed that on this night the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred – briefly allowing ghosts to return to earth.
Caption: Children enjoying the Light Party.