Planning a Halloween party can be plenty of fun but you can have an even better time choosing your ghost invitations if you know a little bit about the history of the season. Let’s start with the origins of the date and name. The name is actually a corruption of All Hallow’s Eve. You see, All Hallow’s Day was a religious event for the worship of Catholic saints. The festivities always took place on November 1st so October 31st became known as All Hallow’s Eve. Of course, the day was significant long before the Catholic religion became a dominant force in Europe. For the Irish Celts, the day was known as Samhain and was celebrated as the last day of summer and the first day of the new year.
Now that you know why you always send out those Halloween invitations for parties at the end of October, you might have developed an interest in the origins of some of the other festive traditions, including trick or treating. In part, this idea came over with the Irish who had to flee their homes during the mid 19th century because of the Great Potato Famine. They brought with them the idea of wearing costumes for Samhain. However, the door-to-door begging came from a practice known as souling. Christians walked between villages asking for soul cakes – a type of bread baked with currants. When the beggars received the cakes, they would pray for the person’s deceased relatives to assist in expediting their movement to heaven from limbo. Souling eventually became combined with the costumes and with the threat of tricks. Of course, most of the tips were relatively harmless back in those days, including tipping over outhouses. One cute idea is to serve soul cakes to everyone who receives Halloween party invitations.
Trick or treating is not the only tradition with a historic basis. When you send out Halloween invites for your party, consider including bobbing for apple in your activities. Not only is this a fun activity for kids but it’s actually an old Halloween tradition. After Rome took over most of Europe, they decided to integrate traditional Celtic Halloween traditions with their existing October celebration in honor of Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruits. When you send out your party invitations, you might even consider ones decorated with apples because apples were Pomona’s symbol. While this may not be a scary Halloween tradition, it certainly is an interesting one.
Obviously, you’re not going to have a Halloween party without a few Jack-o-lanterns, right? But did you know that tradition actually came from two different sources? The most interesting is a Celtic legend about Jack, who decided to trick the devil into climbing up a tree only to trap him there using a cross. The devil was supposedly so mad about being tricked that he cursed Jack to walk around for eternity carrying only a carved out turnip for light. These were called, as you might have guessed, Jack’s lanterns. Should you include a turnip not a pumpkin on your invitations Halloween?
Actually, no. When the Irish immigrants arrived in North America, pumpkins replaced the turnips because they were larger, more plentiful, and easier to carve creatively. Furthermore, pumpkins were already a popular symbol of fall during Harvest festivals. The transition for Jack’s turnip lantern to the grinning pumpkin Jack o’lantern for your Halloween celebration was really a blending of Celtic and North American symbolism.