As agricultural contractors, we are outside for long periods of the day at this time of year, making the most of the daylight hours we still have. In October, I really notice the difference especially towards the end of the month. Perhaps this is why our ancestors associated this darker time of the year with ghouls and ghosts more than any other?
In fact, Halloween has very little to do with the supernatural associations. All Hallows’ Eve really means All Saints’ Eve, a time when we remember the saints and martyrs of the early Christian church. A hallow is just another word for a saint.
That said, it appears that the end of October was a time when people celebrated their ancestors’ lives long before the British Isles were converted to Christianity. No one knows for sure exactly how Halloween may have been adapted by the Church from a pre-existing pagan festival. For the Celts, a harvest festival around this time of year would have probably come in late October. For some, the ancient festival of Samhain, which celebrated the changing of summer to winter, was a precursor to what we now call Halloween.
Of course, many modern traditions associated with Halloween have their roots in American culture. However, people have been doing things like ‘trick or treat’ since mediaeval times. Back then, poorer children would call on the homes of richer folk and promise to pray for the souls of their dead relatives in exchange for treats. In Ireland, people would often sing a song or perform some form of entertainment instead. It appears these two traditions got mixed together in America to become something we now recognise as a true Halloween tradition.
Bobbing for apples is even older. This tradition goes back to Roman times. The Romans brought species of apple trees with them that were bigger than the native ones and their habit of bobbing for them caught on with the local population. Of course, the use of recently harvested apples is a very autumnal thing so it would seem that this game became a Halloween custom because of the seasonal nature of the fruit.
So much of what we celebrate in our culture is because of the changing use of land as one season turns to the next. So this as every other year I will be helping carve a pumpkin or two in our household whilst reflecting on what this means for our business as we head into winter.
As ever we are available for all sorts of tasks you might not have the manpower for at the moment and in the coming months. Whether you need a gateway stoned before it turns into mush again, you need help with drainage or just general maintenance, don’t hesitate to make contact. In the meantime, I’d like to wish you a ‘Happy Halloween’.