Kempinski Blog Article
As October draws to an end, people all around the world are preparing for Halloween. Known as All Hallows' Eve and All Saints' Eve to some, this celebration of the dead is observed across the world on October 31st of every year.
The history of Halloween
The true origin of Halloween is largely debated, and while it has become somewhat of a commercialised event, it was once known in the Christian calendar for marking the evening before All Hallows' Day (a feast held in the honour of all saints).
Many people believe multiple Halloween traditions also have pagan roots, inspired by Celtic harvest festivals like Samhain. Samhain was always celebrated on October 31st, marking the start of the 'darker half' of the year and the end of harvest season.
The importance of the apple, and the act of dressing up to sing from house to house in exchange for food, are believed to have been inspired by Samhain. Apple bobbing, a game popular at Halloween parties today, was common back then. In fact, apples were linked to immortality and the Otherworld in Celtic times - a very spooky snack indeed! Dressing up and knocking at neighbours' doors to sing or recite a verse from a poem was named 'mumming' or 'guising', while today this has simply become known as wearing fancy dress and going trick-or-treating.
While many modern children have picked up the North American trait of saying 'Trick or Treat' when a neighbour answers their door, singing is still practised by young children in England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as throughout Europe.
The Chinese choose to commemorate the dead in their own special festival, the Hungry Ghost Festival. Lanterns are lit and released to float down the river, and this is often held in mid-July.
Popular myths and symbols
While Halloween shares both pagan and Christian beginnings, its connection with the dead has created strong links with the supernatural. Many myths and symbols, from witches to ghosts and ghouls, are frequently associated with the holiday.
While the iconic symbol of Halloween is now a carved pumpkin, or jack-o'-lantern as they are commonly known, the first ever jack-o'-lanterns were actually turnips or large potatoes. The tradition began in Ireland, spreading to Britain and America over time.
Jack-o'-lanterns had three traditional uses. They were either created to ward off evil spirits (including vampires), represent souls in purgatory or used by trick-or-treaters to scare and frighten.
The Gothic tale of Dracula shares strong links with Halloween, due to its supernatural nature and origin in folklore. Bram Stoker's work is known worldwide, making Count Dracula a household name, and many other vampire novels, movies and television shows have been created since. Dressing up as a vampire is a popular choice for those who wish to celebrate Halloween.
Like Dracula, Frankenstein, or rather Frankenstein's monster, is another symbolic Halloween character. In Shelley's novel, the creature is often compared to a demon and a devil, representing something evil and grotesque. Although those who have read the book will realise this is not necessarily the case, the monster created has had a huge impact on Halloween as we know it today. Set in Geneva, fans of the Gothic novel can see the many beautiful Swiss locations mentioned, and learn more about the myth, when they visit the city.
If you do choose to visit Geneva this Halloween, you can learn more about the creature's origin when you stay at Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva.
Halloween in the western world
Today, Halloween in the western world is celebrated by Christians and non-religious people alike. Modern traditions tend to focus on wearing a costume, often of a scary nature, and for children going trick-or-treating.
Common Halloween-themed treats include candy apples, candy corn, and bonfire toffee. In Ireland, they serve Colcannon - a dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage, milk and butter. To keep things traditional, small prizes are often hidden inside including buttons, coins and a ring which would symbolising marriage in the coming year.
Many people enjoy scaring themselves during Halloween, and haunted houses have been a popular attraction since the early 19th century. Today, haunted attractions can be anything from abandoned warehouses to mazes. Actors are often hired to create an extra-scary environment, and a host of visual and sound effects are added to enhance the experience.
If you would like to spend Halloween with Kempinski, contact us for further information, or to book a room in any of our five-star hotels.