Autumn is well and truly underway which can only mean one thing – it’s almost Halloween! Though Halloween has come to Japan from the US and is commonly thought of as an American festival, it actually originated in England, and has its roots in pagan and old Christian customs.
It is thought that Halloween started as the Scottish festival Samhain, which marked the end of the summer and the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were supposed to be closest. Therefore, it was thought to be a time at which unexplainable, magical things were most likely to happen…
Many modern Halloween traditions, like wearing costumes and trick-or-treating, have their roots in medieval England, where Christians celebrated “All Hallows’ Eve”; the night when the souls of the deceased would supposedly roam the Earth and seek vengeance upon the living. To avoid being recognised, many people would wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves; and poor folk would go from door to door, offering prayers in exchange for food (known as “souling”).
Though Halloween has lost many of its religious overtones, such customs have survived until this day, along with the desire to join together with friends and family and have fun by exploring the supernatural. After becoming popular in America, various other customs, such as making jack-o-lanterns (a scary face carved into a pumpkin with a candle inside) have been added, and today Halloween is a staple ingredient to thequintessentially American childhood.
There are many things you can do this year to enjoy this cozy and creepy holiday. Whether you choose to scare or impress your friends with a Halloween costume, watch a horror movie, go trick or treating, or just decorate your home with ghoulish images or warm, autumnal colours, the most important thing is to get into the spooky spirit of this festival.
pagan (adj.) ~ relating to the pagan religion, which holds that there are many gods
supernatural (adj.) ~ relating to that which is unexplainable by science / natural laws
deceased (n.) ~ dead, no longer alive
vengeance (n.) ~ violent revenge
overtone (n.) ~ an implicit meaning or quality
staple (n.) ~ a basic, important part
quintessentially (adj.) ~ the pure and essential element of something
spirit (n.) ~ state of mind, attitude