The chill of October brings with it Halloween, or Samhain (Sah-wun), to give it its Celtic name. This festival coincided with the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. It was believed that the souls of the dead would return home at this time, so people lit bonfires to ward off evil spirits. The Celtic connection goes further, with the original Jack o’Lanterns being carved out of turnips in Ireland. A burning coal was apparently placed inside the first one by the Devil himself, to represent the trapped soul of Stingy Jack, who was wanted by neither Heaven nor Hell!
Big in the USA
In its modern guise, Halloween is a festival which has grown in popularity in the UK, mostly as a US import where it is big business. In fact, it is the second most commercially successful holiday there, behind Christmas. Halloween costumes are taken very seriously indeed, no matter how young or old the participants. Jalayne Sutherland, a one-year-old toddler from Ohio, was dressed as the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2021 for her Halloween costume, posing along some real life corgis.
Her family was rewarded with a special letter from Buckingham Palace, stating that ‘Her Majesty thought it kind of you to write to her, and the Queen was pleased to see the photograph of your daughter, Jalayne, in her splendid outfit.’ The royal seal of approval for sure!
Trick or treat
The main colour scheme of Halloween is black and orange: black for the night and orange for the light. Thousands of pumpkins are sold every year to provide atmospheric spookiness on doorsteps and to let trick or treaters know they are welcome to knock. The initial idea, which originates in the US, comes from the belief that by handing out treats to spirits that roam the streets on All Hallow’s Eve, you can stop them from playing tricks on you. (This has now evolved into standing in the hallway trying not to eat an entire tin of Quality Street while you wait for your neighbour’s children to pop round!)
Carve, then eat
Most pumpkins are thrown away as soon as Halloween is over but in this time of reducing food waste, many people are making use of the tasty orange flesh in hearty recipes. It tastes similar to butternut squash and can be used to make roast veggie burgers, soup or even crisps, so why not give it a go?
If you are looking for fun activities this Halloween, then check out the following in the local area:
17 October: Halloween Gonk Making Workshop
Create your own ghostly gonk at this fun workshop, offered by Artifex Designs at the Barley Mow in Tandridge Village.. Visit Artifex Designs for more information.
26 October: Spooky story telling (for ages 8-12)
Selected dates in October: Pick your own pumpkin, follow the Halloween trail and solve the Prize Pumpkin Crime
Taking place at Priory Farm in Nutfield, all the details are on their website.
(A lit pumpkin on your doorstep tells trick or treaters they are welcome to knock)