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The origins of Hallowe’en

The 31st of October is Halloween or Hallowe’en. The celebration is becoming increasingly popular in the UK following the American example. Children dress up in costumes and go ‘trick or treating’ in the neighbourhood and there are special Halloween costume parties.

Souls and Soothsaying

bonfire-lee-j-haywoodThe origin of Halloween goes as far back as Celtic times when Samhain was celebrated, marking the end of harvest and beginning of winter. On the eve of the new season the borders between the living and the dead dissolved and the souls of the dead returned to the world. This was a perfect condition for soothsaying apparently, so Druids build bonfires to make sacrifices and dressed in animal skins to tell each others fortunes.

Later this celebration was mixed with Roman festivals, one that commemorated the dead and the other to honour Pomona the goddess of fruit and trees. When Christianity was in place, the 2nd of November was declared All Souls Day and 1st November became All Saints Day or All Hallows. The evening before All Hallows became All Hallows Eve or Halloween.

Trick or treating

halloween-costume-by-infrogmationTreating started from the tradition of souling – the poor would knock on doors and in exchange for soulcakes ( a sweet spiced bun) they promised to pray for the family’s dead. Over time children took over souling and as the religious aspect disappeared the soulcakes where replaced by sweets.

The tricking might come from Mischief Night still upheld in some parts of the UK on the 4th of November where people play tricks on each other (though this mainly consisted of putting things in the wrong place…)

People dress up in costumes for Halloween because it was believed that ghosts returned to earth and to avoid being recognised and attacked, one would dress up to fool the evil spirits.

Pumpkins, Nuts and Apples

pumpkins-by-manitou2121Before pumpkins became popular, the lanterns were carved out of turnips: they were named the Jack O’Lanterns. Poor Jack was not allowed into Heaven because he was a miser but also not allowed into Hell as he had played tricks on the Devil – so he was doomed to walk around with his lantern until Judgement day.

Single ladies (pre-Beyoncé’s anthem) used the magical night to get a glimpse of their future husband. They would name hazelnuts after men of interest and throw them in the fire: the one that popped and not burned would be The One. The girls could throw an apple peel over their shoulder and it would land into the initial of their future spouse.  Alternatively they could eat an apple or light a candle in front of the mirror whilst combing their hair and the future husband will peak over your shoulder… Spooky!

Special Event

chicago-by-nimesh-mThis whole month you can have a Halloween party on our  special Seadog Haunted Chicago Cruise. During the 75-min cruise the Captain will tell you creepy tales and ghostly stories about people and places in Chicago. The city will never be the same again. If you have children who like spooky stories they are welcome to come along in their costumes!

Photocredits: Flickr Bonfire – Lee J Harwood, costumes- Infrogmation, pumpkins-manitou2121, Chicago – Nimesh M

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