Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

I do love a good Halloween party.

Happy Halloween banner

From what I've been reading (and sorry for the lack of references, I can't remember where I read half of this); for thousands of years, this time of year has had great significance. In the ancient British Isles the Celtic festival was called Samhain and spanned for days surrounding this changing of the seasons. This festival is thought to be a major part of the beginnings of Halloween. Back then it was seemingly the time of the year when winter and summer, warm and cold, light and dark, plenty and little, hopes and fears, all collided with what must have been a hard existence. Livestock not expected to last the winter were slaughtered and going by most sources it is believed to be a time steeped with the understanding that death was a real possibility in the months to come, hence it seems that this particular festival took on the air of death and with it, lots of the spiritual connotations of a pagan culture.

Skull Cup and Candles

Moving forward in time; belief systems, culture and technology all moved on and due to being a human construct, the festival moved on too. First was the assimilation of this festival into similar Roman festivals, one of which was a celebration honouring the dead. Next came the spread of Christianity, and, as with most other festivals with pagan roots, a holy assimilation by some Pope or other. After it's placing on the substitutes bench by the Catholic Church, the celebration became known as All Hallows Eve - the night before the newly created All Saints Day.

Mouse or Rat?

Several centuries down the line and the festival gets caught up in another belief system dilemma, again wrapped up in politics and power, this time a good old Christian in-fight over which way to worship the ye'olde spaghetti monster in the sky. With a bit of dissent between State and Church came an alternative to All Saints day - a lack of it, however it didn't take long for the traditions of Hallows Eve and it's Celtic and Roman roots to be adopted into another day of remembrance. As the Catholic population had adopted many of the ancient traditions and symbolism centuries before, the Protestant community, albeit with yet another twist took on many of those age old traditions. The Gun Powder Plot of the 5th November 1605 eventually became celebrated as Guy Fawkes night or Bonfire night.

Freaky mask lamp

But as religion had superseded the dominance of survival as the focus of these festivals, so it seems in the past century that the focus has once again been tied to the dominant social driver of its time. This time - economics. Even with this new tie and a re-branding across the water in the USA, it does appear that many of the traditions accumulated through it's existence have stuck and are still moving along with popular culture and societies values, even if that is just an excuse to dress up, have a good time and celebrate all things supernatural and spooky.

Halloween Cobweb

In an increasingly secular and technologically advanced world, the thoughts, fears and the motivation we each have to continue the tradition of an ancient festival may have changed but it still continues, even if the very first origins of this are lost in time. As it did likely begin – through peoples thoughts and ideas – so it is that everyone who celebrates it each year has the ability to retain and adapt it's traditions and create new ones.

Last year we decorated the house for the first time and this year we did it again (The photos running through the post so far are all decorations we have up in our living room this year).

This year we also had a small party for our friends in our house, it wasn't technically on the night of Halloween itself but the night before as it was the time we could all gather. Take away food, party snacks and inflatable spiders were the order of the day.

That is handy because, on this, the night of Halloween, I can show you what we got up to.

This is a rare photo of me, probably not looking my undead best but somewhere along the lines of a 1970s vampire rock artist or something up that street.

Rocking Vampire

Norngirl dressed up as a witch and we were soon visited by an Alien. Our extraterrestrial was shortly followed by the Green Lantern, soon followed by another witch.

Alien Halloween


And bobbing for apples was on the menu as was waving some sparklers around in the garden.

Bobbing for apples

As well as the take away we ended the night watching The Japanese version of the Ring and Alien.

Alien Rocker

It was a really fun night!

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