HALLOWEEN – The Informal Start of Winter And The Holiday Season

Driving through the neighborhoods one can see ghouls and ghosts and pumpkins everywhere: Halloween! Kids are eagerly watching the neighbors’ decorations and are bound to top them with scarier stuff on their own front porch. Young & old seem to love Halloween, the dress-up parties and whatever else comes with it.

When I moved to California Halloween was a custom I knew of, but never had observed, since there was no such festivity in Germany at that time. Times have changed and I am witnessing my family and friends over there today engaging in Halloween parties, getting the kids ready for their Halloween trick or treat night as if they lived right next door to me! “Hey, that’s not fair” my little one exclaims. “They have Fasching twice!”

Not really but in essence true. But where does the Halloween custom come from and is there some correlation to our German Fasching? Wikipedia gives an in depth explanation on Halloween mentioning that the word Halloween came up the first time in the 16th century and represented a Scottish version of All-Hallows-Even (Hallow meaning in old English, Saints) and therefore was the night before All Saints Day, a holiday observed by most of the Western Christian world. People had the superstitious belief that during that time the dead could return to earth and according to the ancient Celtic ‘Samhain’ celebration, which influenced Halloween as well, spirits both harmless and harmful could pass through to the world. To ward of these spirits ancient Celts disguised themselves as harmful spirits themselves so they would not be harmed.

The tradition of kids going from door to door apparently stems from the medieval times “ when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2)” (Wikipedia)

Halloween seems to also mark a turning point where fall for sure turns into winter. The months for various festivities  have started and we are being reminded that the end of the year is near. Interesting also here the relation to the festival of Samhain that celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”. It is in fact sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year” (Wikipedia).  The Romans had a festival ‘Feralia’ where the spirits of the dead were honored. Feralia though was celebrated in February, which brings us back to the German Fasching being related to Halloween after all. One memorable Weiberfastnacht’s event near Garmisch Partenkirchen in fact brings back images of horrible witches and other scary figures streaming through the villages. Isn’t that similar to what we will experience tomorrow night?

By the way, the official start of our German Fasching is also in November. To be exact November 11, at 11:11 am!




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