The night of the thin veil between worlds
Halloween is a celebration observed in many countries on the 31st of October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Saints’ Day. It’s a celebration dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed. One theory holds that many Halloween traditions were influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival of Samhain /SUHwan/, which are believed to have pagan roots. These pagan roots believed that, on this night, the veil that separated the world of the living from the world of the dead was very thin and the dead could come into our world. Some people lit fires to scare the dead away; while others celebrated the opportunity to speak with their dear departed family members, seeking direction and advice. Some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Church. Celebrated in Ireland and Scotland for centuries, Irish and Scottish immigrants took many Halloween customs to North America in the 19th century, and then through American influence Halloween has spread to other countries by the late 20th and early 21st century.
Popular Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins or turnips into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, “Trick or treat?” The word “trick” implies a “threat” to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given.
There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween. They often involve apples and hazelnuts. In Celtic mythology, apples were strongly associated with the Otherworld and immortality, while hazelnuts were associated with divine wisdom.
The following activities were a common feature of Halloween in Ireland and Britain during the 17th–20th centuries. Some have become more widespread and continue to be popular today. One common game is apple bobbing in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use only their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string.
One custom that persists in modern-day Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays, the purchase) of a barmbrack, which is a light fruitcake, into which a plain ring, a coin, and other charms are placed before baking. It is considered fortunate to be the lucky one who finds it.
observed: osservato, celebrato;
eve: la vigilia;
the faithful departed: i fedeli passati a miglior vita;
to hold: mantenere (in senso figurativo);
a harvest: un raccolto;
lit: (forma passata del verbo “to light”) accendere;
trick-or-treat: dolcetto o scherzetto;
a costume party: una festa in maschera;
to carve: intagliare, incidere, scavare;
a pumpkin: una zucca;
a turnip: una rapa
jack-o’-lantern: una lanterna fatta con la zucca;
a bonfire: un falò;
apple bobbing: gioco di “ondeggiamento delle mele”;
to play a prank: fare uno scherzo;
haunted: infestato di fantasmi;
a treat: una cosa dolce, una merendina;
a threat: una minaccia;
mischief: una marachella;
a hazelnut: una nocciola;
The Otherworld: L’aldilà;
to float: galleggiare, fluttuare;
a tub: una vasca, un bacino;
treacle: della melassa;
a scone: un pasticcino scozzese;
barmbrack: una torta di frutta celtica.
Halloween History – National Geographic