Halloween has a far more meaningful and historical significance than many realise. Kirsty Gibbins puts on her witches hat and investigates the ancient festival of Samhain
Halloween is about more than just pumpkin lanterns, apple dooking and dubious fancy dress. The true meaning of All Hallow's Eve harks back to the ancient fire festival of Samhain, the celebration of the final harvest and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Samhain is one of two festivals that traditionally represent the Celtic year, with Beltane marking the beginning of summer and Samhain marking the coming of winter.
And there are still many who embrace the message of Samhain and honour the traditions that historically shaped the festival. Few do a better job than the Beltane Fire Society, who bring Samhain (or Samhuinn, as is their spelling) back to life every year on the streets of the capital, with a spectacular procession and visual pyrotechnic feast in the heart of Edinburgh.
It may still be all about the costumes, face paint and over the top partying – but this, kids, is a Halloween party with a little more substance than most. Dating back more than 2,000 years, Samhain represents a time of hope, where traditional farming communities would see the dark silence of winter as the whisperings of new beginnings and the stirring of the seed below the ground.
And, with its focus on life and death, it’s also believed to be a chance for the spirits to pay one last visit to their relatives before departing for the ‘other world’, because during the festival there is thought to be no barrier between the living and the dead and the portals to the other world are wide open. Everyone is allowed this night to celebrate, no holds barred, and behave recklessly and wildly before winter. Basically it’s a giant free for all and that sounds like our kind of party.
The BFS Samhuinn celebration, Halloween weekend, Edinburgh, www.beltane.org