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The Great British Spook Off
For decades, Halloween was very much an American tradition. We Brits would watch the movies and enjoy the TV references, but when the end of October rolled around, we’d be looking forward to Bonfire Night instead of anything spooky. So what changed? In this final entry in our three-part Halloween extravaganza, we’re going to investigate why!
Here come the American psychos…
Halloween has been a massive fixture in the USA for centuries, but its current hyper-marketable form has only really taken off in the UK in the last couple of decades. Halloween dress-up balls and parties are becoming increasingly popular, just as they have been for years across the pond.
Trick or treat sweets are collected along with pennies for the Guy, and we’re beginning to decorate our houses, shops and offices with the same images of witches, pumpkins and Michael Myers. Even pets are dressed in silly Halloween costumes!
Returning to its roots…
But the remarkable irony of all of this is that Halloween is a Scottish, English and Celtic tradition, one that has changed and morphed over the years, but one that has its origins in the Celtic and Pagan traditions of pagan Britain.
We covered this more in our first blog on the subject, so head there for more of an in-depth look, but the short version is that a long succession of invaders, Romans, Christians and Anglo Saxons incorporated aspects of a traditional festival into their own traditions, which over the years became Halloween.
That Brits are now celebrating Halloween in the American sense is evidence that the tradition has come full circle. In other words, unlike football, Halloween is coming home!
As Halloween returns to the UK, we’re rediscovering all sorts of old customs as well as enjoying the conventional ones like trick or treating.
For example, did you know that apples, for example, were used as part of a marriage Halloween prophecy? According to legend, on Halloween (sometimes at the stroke of midnight), young women used to peel an apple into one continuous strip and throw it over their shoulders. The apple skin would supposedly land in the shape of the first letter of the woman’s future husband’s name.
Another Halloween ritual involved looking in a mirror at midnight by candlelight, for a future husband’s face was said to appear. (A scary variation of this later became the “Bloody Mary” ritual familiar to many) Like many such childhood games, it was likely done in fun, though at least some people took it seriously.