Halloween (All Hallows’ Evening) – the evening before All Saints Day (All Hallows) – is a firmly established favorite in most kids’ calendars as a time to carve a pumpkin, dress up in a creepy costume, and indulge in sweets and candy. But, of course, Halloween was originally not just about trick-or-treating, being a much more significant event for our ancestors….
There is definitely a seasonal element to the festival, with traditional activities including apple bobbing, lighting bonfires and carving pumpkins into scary-looking lanterns; in earlier times, before pumpkins from North America were known, European people would have carved turnips.
Although the festivities are in many ways now closely tied to Western European Christian harvest festivals, they have their unmistakable origins in the Celtic celebration of Samhain – which means ‘summer’s end’ in old Irish – or perhaps in Roman festivals such as that celebrating Pomona, goddess of fruits and seeds.
Many supernatural creatures became associated with All Hallows. In Ireland, fairies were numbered among the legendary creatures that roamed abroad on Halloween. In olden-day England, cakes were made for the wandering souls, and people went out “a soulin’” for ‘soul cakes’.
Samhain – like another seasonal feast, Beltane – was seen as a time when the ‘door’ to the Celtic Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. The souls of dead relatives and ancestors were invited to feasts and a place set at the table for them. People also took steps to protect themselves from harmful spirits, which may have led to the custom of guising.
So what is ‘guising’? Similar to the practice of ‘mumming’ it basically involves dressing up and having a good time, and is the Scottish and Irish forerunner of trick-or-treating. It derives its name from the ‘disguises’ or costumes worn by the children who would go from house to house. They would traditionally receive a small gift of food, coins or “apples or nuts for the Halloween party”, although today their reward is more likely to be chocolate or candy.
Guising at Halloween was first recorded in North America in 1911, when a Canadian newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going “guising” around the neighborhood.
Of course, no Halloween would be complete without a ghost, monster or skeleton or two to help the party go with a bang. We can’t promise you any ghosts but here at 3B Scientific we’re right at home with skulls and skeletons – check out our friends Stan, Max, Leo, Sam, Fred and Phil.
We also offer the perfect assortment of spooky Halloween Gifts from miniature skeletons and body parts like eyeballs, brains and glow-in-the-dark skulls to candy dishes and cookie jars. We particularly like the ‘NomSkulls’ Kooky Creepy Cupcake Molds!
Note: If you want to read something really spooky, check out this blog about our friends at Skulls Unlimited. They really do take bones seriously and supply genuine skeletons to the educational, medical and research communities as well as to the enthusiasts market. Their process for cleaning the skeletons is definitely not for the squeamish: it involves stripping the flesh and boiling. Then they let the bugs go to work: hundreds of Dermestid beetles pick the bones clean before the skeleton can go onto further processing and be made ready for sale to the customer. Don’t be tempted to try this at home, kids!
Check out our Halloween Pinterest Board!