Halloween as we know it today is celebrated by families all over the world. Kids have fun dressing up in costumes and visiting each other’s houses for trick-or-treating. Grown-ups don’t miss out on the fun either – here in Malaysia, work parties and mini gatherings amongst friends are held with participants dressed as characters from popular movies and tv shows. But the Halloween of today is actually an ‘Americanised’ version of a Celtic celebration that dates back to ancient times.
Around 2000 years ago, the ancient Celtic people celebrated a festival called Samhain (pronounced ‘sau-win’) on 1st November. The word ‘Samhain’ means ‘summer’s end’, a time where the Season of Life met the Season of Death (dying crops). It was believed that the dead returned to roam the Earth on the eve of Samhain and the Celts would keep spirits at bay by offering food and wine left out on their doorstep. Costumes and masks were worn outdoors to ‘trick’ ghosts into believing they were one of them, so as to not attract attention.
During the 8th century, this tradition eventually merged with the Christian celebration of All Saints Day (1st November ), and the night before became known as ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ – later shortened to ‘Halloween’. It is not very clear where the traditions of trick-or-treating came from, however it is said to echo the medieval British practice of ‘guising’ on All Soul’s Day (2nd November), where kids would go around collecting gifts of food and wine in return for dancing, singing, or reciting poetry.
The Halloween pumpkin, or jack-o’-lantern, was supposedly made from a turnip, originally the traditional choice of vegetable for carving Halloween lanterns. The lanterns carry the myth of Stingy Jack, a soul doomed to wander the Earth for eternity with only a carved turnip filled with coal to guide his path. When the potato famine drove thousands of Irish immigrants to America in the 19th Century, traditions were brought along and adapted to local customs, which was how turnips became replaced with the widely-available pumpkin.
Since then Halloween has become a family celebration that involves entire communities, very often regardless of race or religion. Kids all over the world look forward to dressing up, comparing costumes with friends, exchanging sweets, and eating toffee apples. As with all festivals, preparing festive food has become a highlight of the celebrations, from bakeries baking zombie cakes to blood-themed drinks in bars.
Be sure to join us at B.I.G. for some Halloween fun! Boo, our friendly ghost, will be waiting to welcome you with a wide range of Halloween sweets, candies, and fun activities for the whole family – there’ll be Halloween Kid’s Craft Activities on 28th & 29th Oct (1.30 am – 3.30 pm), and don’t forget Trick o’ Treats on the 29th from 6 – 7 pm! After all, all you need is a little Halloween spirit.