Little by little, autumn is claiming its place: there are more and more of these gloomy days and dark evenings, with cold rains and ghastly winds. With the summer holidays finished, there seems to be nothing to look forward to until Christmas, which is still long way away. Many would disagree as there is Halloween coming up with its orange and black colours, trick-or-treating, apple bobbing, pumpkin carving; and it is becoming increasingly popular in the UK.
There are a lot of controversial opinions about this festival. The name Halloween is of Christian origin, simply meaning “evening before the All Saints’ Day”. Even so, Halloween celebrations were outlawed during Puritan times due to their origins in Pagan Celtic festival Samhain. Also, unlike Catholics, Protestants did not believe that departed souls could return to their homes on Earth. This was one of the Halloween’s main ideas: the ‘veil between worlds’ was thinning after the end of a season cycle, and not just the souls of the dead, but also evil spirits could walk freely among the living. So, mortals would wear scary costumes to ‘blend in’, or offer sweets to demons to escape persecution. Also, sweets and fancy foods were kept for the souls of the departed loved ones in case they come to visit. These are just a few of the likely origins of the modern Halloween customs. Sadly, nowadays Halloween is being used as an excuse for bad behaviour steadily earning a status of ‘anti-social night of the year’.
The majority of UK schools, especially private ones don’t tend to celebrate Halloween. This is a reflection of ambiguous attitude to Halloween in general, also public schools have higher obligation, especially with boarders, to look after their students’ interests and well-being – very often these spooky celebrations are deemed unacceptable for religious or cultural reasons. Sometimes it is a simple case of Halloween costumes being too scary for very young children. Depending on a particular school policy, thematic displays may be permitted for educational purposes.
It might be just a matter of time for Halloween to be officially celebrated in schools as its popularity is growing thanks to social media and commercialisation.
As opposed to secondary schools, language schools and universities in the UK embrace Halloween traditions much more, introducing horror story contests, fancy dress parties and so on. If you are a student at Sheffield University, you might get a chance to take part in zombie parade during Fright Night, Britain’s biggest Halloween carnival.
Even though modern Halloween is highly commercialised event, let’s hope that its historic and cultural value will not get overlooked, and it will continue to be celebrated as a beginning of not a horror, but a fairytale brought by coming winter months.