The Meaning of Hallowe’en

The Meaning of Hallowe’en

Hallowe’en is, for many, a fun excuse to dress up in outrageous costumes, consume a prodigious amount of sweets and perhaps play a trick or two on the joyless individuals who refuse to provide treats. However, it is a festival with a much deeper meaning, and it is still celebrated as such by certain parts of the community.

The Pagan New Year

For some in the pagan community, Hallowe’en or Samhain is the date celebrated as the New Year. This is believed to stem from Celtic traditions, marking the end of summer as the end of the year; the harvest has been gathered in, the cattle brought in from the fields, and the life around us begins to die in preparation for rebirth in the spring.

Samhain Autumn Celebration iStock_000014504633_Medium

This makes Hallowe’en a very good time to evaluate your life and your position; is there anything that you have begun in the last twelve months that you have left at a loose end? Now is the time to tie up those ends, and make ready for a new start. You can also use this time to consider what you want to achieve in the next twelve months.

The End of Harvest

Many Hallowe’en traditions are based on a celebration of the end of harvest. One pastime that is an excellent example is the game of bobbing for apples. Far from being a spooky tradition, this is one that often holds romantic connotations. One variant was to name the apple one is aiming for after a potential love interest; if you catch it on the first bite, you are destined for romance. Another variant states that the first to successfully bob an apple would be the first in the group to marry.

Red Apples

Apples are particularly favoured in many pagan traditions because, if sliced horizontally through the centre, the pips form the shape of a pentagram, signifying the four elements plus spirit.

Honouring Ancestors

Why are ghosts and ghouls so prevalent in modern Hallowe’en celebrations? It comes from a very old belief – that upon this night the veil between the land of the living and the land of the dead is thinner. Whilst today this idea is portrayed as something spooky and scary, it was originally far more comforting – your loved ones are near again.

Dia de Muertos offering

In Mexico, this tradition is continued with the annual Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos; families gather to clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors; toys are often left for departed children, whilst adults often receive bottles of their favourite alcohol. In a similar way, this is a good time to honour your ancestors; to wipe the dust off their portraits, celebrate their achievements, or even to spend time researching your family tree to better understand your roots.

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Tony Hyland