Halloween or Hallowe’en is a traditional folk and pagan holiday originating in the Anglo-Celtic Islands celebrated on the evening of October 31, the eve of the Catholic feast of All Saints. Its name is a contraction of the English All Hallows’ Eve (or All Saints’ Eve) which means the eve of All Hallows’ Day in contemporary English and can be translated as “the eve of all saints” or “the vigil of All Saints”.
All Hallows’ Eve
All Saints’ Eve
|Signification||Festival of the Dead|
|Celebrations||Collect candy, carve a turnip or pumpkin, dress up as a scary character.|
|Observances||The candy hunt|
|Related to||Samhain, All Saints’ Day|
Despite its name of Christian and English origin, many sources present Halloween as a legacy of the religious festival of Samhain which was celebrated in early autumn by the Celts and was a kind of New Year’s Eve festival for them. Halloween is known to this day as Oíche Shamhna in Gaelic. It is a very popular festival in Ireland, Scotland and Wales where there are many historical testimonies of its existence. Jack-o’-lantern, the iconic Halloween lantern, itself comes from an Irish legend.
It was from the eighth century, under Pope Gregory III (731-741) and, in the following century, under Pope Gregory IV (827-844), that the Catholic Church moved the feast of All Saints, which until then could be celebrated after Easter or after Pentecost, to the date of 1 November. It has been suggested that the Church sought to cover up the festival of Samain.
This, however, should be put into perspective because the Church celebrated a martyrs’ feast after Easter and when the feast of All Saints was instituted, the feast of Samaïn had fallen into disuse. Since the Celts had a lunar calendar, the festival of Samaïn could not fall on 1 November. Since the very nature of these two feasts is radically different, it is difficult to see how the feast of the saints of the Catholics can be compared to the Celtic festival of Samaïn and its imagery with the Sidh.
Halloween was introduced to the United States and Canada after the massive influx of Irish and Scottish emigrants, particularly following the Great Irish Famine (1845-1851). It gained popularity from the 1920s onwards and it was on the new continent that Jack-o’-Lanterns made from locally sourced pumpkins appeared, replacing the turnips used in Europe.
Halloween is now celebrated mainly in Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. To a lesser extent, it is celebrated in many other countries. The most well-known modern tradition is for children to dress up in scary costumes such as ghosts, witches, monsters or vampires and ring doorbells asking for treats with the formula: Trick or treat! which means “candy or a spell!”. The evening can also be marked by bonfires, fireworks, children’s games, the reading of horror tales or Halloween poems, the screening of horror films but also the holding of early All Saints’ Day masses in its strictly religious component.
Etymology and spelling
The etymology of the word “Halloween” belongs strictly to the English language, without any relation to Gaelic or any other Celtic language. Its current name is a corruption of All Hallows’ Eve, which literally means “the eve of all saints,” that is, the eve of the Christian feast of All Saints. Hallow is an archaic form of the English word holy and means “saint”, even is a common form that formed evening, the evening. The spelling Hallowe’en is still sometimes used in Canada and the United Kingdom, “e’en” being a contraction of even, which became “een”.
In Quebec, the word “Halloween” is preceded by the definite article “l’”. For example: “It’s Halloween!” According to the Office québécois de la langue française, “despite the fact that in typography the capital letter characterizes the names of civil or religious holidays, this term is sometimes attested with a lower case. On the other hand, even if this word is of foreign origin, the initial “h” is silent, which leads to its elision, for example in the expression of Halloween candy. »
History of Halloween
Celtic Origins: The Feast of Samhain
Most historians consider the traditional pagan folk festival of Halloween to be a legacy of Samhain, a festival that was celebrated in early autumn by the Celts and was a kind of New Year’s Eve festival for them. During Celtic protohistory, there was a religious festival – Samhain in Ireland, Samonios in Gaul – which took place under the authority of the Druids, for seven days: the day of Samhain itself and three days before and three days after.
“It’s a celebration of closing the past year and opening the coming year. In the Celtic calendar based on the solar cycle, the date of Samhain corresponded to the mid-time of one of the four periods from an equinox to a solstice, or from a solstice to an equinox. By contrast, it is the extremities of these periods that are now the occasion for celebrations in Western societies, and not their half-times: our current New Year is set ten days after the winter solstice, Easter is celebrated at the time of the spring equinox, at the summer solstice the festival of music takes place. Only the autumnal equinox is not celebrated in favour of the half-time of the period that separates it from the winter solstice. The time of Samhain is the time of the Sidh (the other world) briefly confused with that of humanity.”
The night of Samhain does not belong to the year that is ending, nor to the year that is beginning. The festival is a closed period outside of time. This is the period when barriers are lowered and when, according to the beliefs of the time, the unreal rubs shoulders with the real and when men can communicate with people from the other world (these are demons or the gods of the Tuatha Dé Danann). On this night of closure, the Gauls used to perform a ceremony in order to ensure that the coming new year would unfold serenely.
Traditionally, they would extinguish the fireplace in their hearth and then gather in a circle around the sacred altar fire, where the fire was also smothered to prevent the intrusion of evil spirits into the village. After the ceremony, each household was given warm embers to rekindle the fire in their home to protect the family from the dangers of the coming year.
Druidic festivals disappeared from Ireland in the fifth century, with the arrival of a new religion, Christianity.
Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day
The Catholic Feast of All Saints has its origins in a commemoration of all martyrs instituted in Rome in 613 by Pope Boniface IV; Originally, it was celebrated on 13 May, the anniversary of the Christian consecration of the Pantheon. It replaced the Lemuria festival of ancient Rome celebrated on this date to ward off evil spectres.
In the ninth century, the feast was extended to “all saints” by Pope Gregory IV and postponed to November 1. Historians generally consider that this date was chosen to Christianize the festival of Samhain. Some scholars, however, consider the festivities of the “All Saints’ Eve” to be exclusively linked to the Christian tradition and reject any pagan origin in these celebrations.
The celebration of All Saints’ Day was followed locally by an Office for the Dead as early as the ninth century. In 998, the monks of Cluny instituted a feast of the dead on November 2, which entered as in the Roman liturgy as a commemoration of all the faithful departed in the thirteenth century. The cult of the dead, however, remained massively celebrated on 1 November. On the Continent, historian Nadine Cretin cites a Breton belief that lasted until the beginning of the twentieth century, according to which the souls of the dead returned on the eve of All Saints’ Day and on solstice nights. Before going to bed, they were left with food on the table and a log lit in the fire so that they could warm themselves. Since this belief is not Christian, it could be, if confirmed, a survival of Samhain.
Broadcasting from Ireland to the United States
Outside the Carolingian Empire, the change of date was not systematic; Ireland continued to celebrate the martyrs on 20 April and not on 1 November. The abundant medieval Irish literature, elaborated by clerics between the eighth and twelfth centuries, mentions only the sacred festival of Samhain.
In the aftermath of the Great Irish Famine of 1845, more than 2 million Irish people settled in the United States and brought with them their practices and customs.
Jack-o’-lantern is probably the most popular character associated with Halloween. It comes from an old Irish tale. Jack would have chased the devil for a good five years. Jack would have been a miser, a drunken, nasty, self-centered character. One evening, while he was in a tavern, the devil appeared to him and demanded his soul. Jack asks the devil to give him a drink, a nightcap before leaving for hell.
The devil agrees and turns into a sixpence. Jack grabbed it and immediately placed it in his purse. The latter has a lock in the shape of a cross, so the devil cannot escape. Eventually, Jack agreed to release the devil on the condition that the devil give him another ten years to live. Ten years later, Jack played another prank on the devil, leaving him at the top of a tree (on which he had carved a cross with his knife) with the promise that he would never pursue him again.
When Jack dies, he is denied entry to heaven, and the devil also refuses to let him enter hell. Jack nevertheless manages to convince the devil to give him a piece of hot coal to light his way in the dark. He places the coal in a sunken turnip as a lantern and is condemned to wander aimlessly until the Day of Judgment. He was then named Jack of the Lantern, or Jack-o’-lantern. He reappears every year, on the day of his death, on Halloween.
Originally, the symbol of Halloween was a turnip containing a candle to commemorate the legend of Jack-o’-lantern, condemned to wander eternally in the darkness between hell and heaven by lighting himself with a firebrand placed in a turnip. The turnip was gradually replaced by a pumpkin. Although there is a tradition in the British Isles of carving a lantern from a rutabaga or turnip, the practice was associated with Halloween in North America, where the pumpkin was wider and easier to carve.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, children in Finistère, in Brittany, still had the custom of carving heads out of beets and turnips as All Saints’ Day approached, as well as playing tricks on other villagers, according to an anecdote reported by Pierre-Jakez Hélias in his book Le Cheval d’Orgueil.
However, skulls carved out of turnips are not an exclusive Halloween tradition. In the nineteenth century, in the Vosges, skulls were also carved out of turnips to celebrate St. Gregory’s Day.
The imagery that surrounds Halloween is a broad amalgam of the Halloween season (a season in which the nights become longer and longer than the day), a century or so of artistic representations (especially in American films), and a mercantile desire to commercialize what has to do with the dark and the mysterious. This usually involves death, magic, or mythical monsters. Characters commonly associated with Halloween are ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, haunted houses, graveyards, pumpkin-headed characters, black cats, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, werewolves, and demons. Especially in the United States, the symbolism is inspired by horror movie classics, with characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Werewolf, and the Mummy. Houses are often decorated with these symbols.
Make-up and costumes inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, especially calaveras and representations of La Catrina, are increasingly used for Halloween, in the United States and other countries, and themed parties are even held for Halloween; This recent fashion, which appeared at the beginning of the twenty-first century, has been criticized on the grounds of cultural appropriation.
Orange and black are the two colors traditionally associated with Halloween. According to historian Nadine Cretin, these colors were adopted after Halloween met the Day of the Dead celebrated in Mexico. In newer products and images, the colors purple, green, and red can be found. The use of these colours is, in part, due to their use in advertisements relating to this holiday for more than a century.
The Trick Hunt
The main event of the holiday is the trick-or-treating party, also known as the Halloween passage, during which children in costume go from door to door asking for treats. English-speaking children shout “Trick or treat!” . In France and Belgium, the habit is to say a sentence similar to that of English speakers “Candy or a spell!”. Whereas in Quebec, children shout: “Bonbons, please!” In this sense, Halloween was first known as “Night of Towers” in the early parts of the United States where it spread. The children’s costumes, often frightening, serve to give the illusion that the evil spirits of yesteryear are returning to haunt the streets of the cities in which door-to-door canvassing is practiced.
The tradition of going door-to-door to ask for food already existed in the United Kingdom and Ireland: children and the poor sang and recited prayers against soul cakes. The tradition of Halloween originated in the nineteenth century in Scotland and Ireland. In the United States and Commonwealth countries, trick-or-treating has been a tradition since the 1930s.
Homeowners wishing to participate in this tradition usually decorate their doors with cobwebs, plastic skeletons or Jack-o’-lanterns. The locals themselves are often in disguise, giving out sweets, chocolate bars, and sometimes even soft drinks. Some people use sound effects and smoke to add ambience.
At one time in the United States, there were many rumors about children finding pins and razor blades in apples and candy harvested on Halloween night. While there is evidence of these incidents, these malicious acts are extremely rare and have never resulted in serious injury. Nevertheless, certain security measures have been put in place to reassure the population.
Fundraising for UNICEF has become a Halloween tradition in Canada and the United States. Beginning in 1948 as a local event in a suburb of Philadelphia, the program consists of distributing small boxes to school children, with which they can solicit donations by visiting homes. It is estimated that children have raised more than US$119 million for UNICEF since the programme began. In 2006, UNICEF removed these boxes in some parts of the world, citing administrative and security concerns.
One tradition that has survived into modern times in Ireland is the baking (or buying) of a barmbrack (báirín breac in Irish), a light fruitcake. A ring is placed in the cake before baking. It is said that whoever finds the ring will find true love during the year. The pumpkin doesn’t just have a decorative look. The roasted seeds can be eaten, and the flesh can be used to make pie, soup, jam, or bread. Other foods associated with the holiday include Colcannon (in Ireland), bonfire toffee (in the UK), Toffee Apple (in Australia; in Britain instead of candy apples), mulled cider, roasted corn, doughnuts, and popcorn.
In France, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a cake marketed during the Halloween party: Le Samain. It was then patented by the company Optos-Opus, which had already registered the Halloween trademark, and sold as the official Halloween cake. Samhain, whose name refers to the Samhain of Celtic mythology, was made from puff pastry, apples, toasted hazelnuts, raisins and caramel. Its appearance made it look like it was illuminated from the inside out with pumpkin heads.
Finally, the children collect the treats associated with the “Trick or treat”.
In Ireland, Halloween is a very popular holiday, known by the Gaelic name Oíche Shamhna (literally the night of late summer), and has been celebrated for centuries. On Halloween night, children and adults dress up as evil creatures (ghosts, witches, goblins), large bonfires are lit and fireworks are set off all over the land.
Scotland, having a common Gaelic language and culture with Ireland, has celebrated the festival of Samhain for centuries. Robert Burns portrayed the various customs in his poem Hallowe’en (1785). Halloween, known in Scottish Gaelic as Oidhche Shamhna, consists mainly of children dressed up (often as witches or ghosts) going door-to-door and providing a variety of entertainment. If the performance is appreciated, the children are rewarded with sweets, fruit or a little money.
Folklore, including Halloween, centers on the belief in fairies. The children dress up and carry a Neepy Candle, a devilish face carved into a hollowed-out rutabaga, lit from within, to scare away the evil fairies. A popular children’s game during this evening is when an apple is caught in a tub of water using only its mouth. Another game is to try to eat, blindfolded, a loaf of bread coated with molasses hanging from the ceiling by a string.
In England, Halloween was once called “The Night of the Nutcracker” or “The Night of the Crunchy Apple.” Families gathered around the fire telling stories while eating hazelnuts and apples. On this day, the poor were given cakes called “the cakes of the spirit.” Halloween was criticized in England during the Reform period for being opposed to the notion of predestination and its popularity declined in that country.
Halloween landed in force in France in the late 1990s.
In some regions, traditional festivals are similar to Halloween, such as the feast of Sant’Andria in Corsica.
From the fifteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, there was a custom among children in Brittany, in Finistère, “towards the approach of All Saints’ Day, to dig beets, to make holes in the shape of eyes, nose and mouth, to insert a piece of candle and close the whole”; In addition to this “lantern with a human head, placed at night on an embankment or hidden in the undergrowth of a hollow ground” to frighten people, the same testimony evokes children with this time the beetroot head carried on their heads and mounted on stilts, in a terrifying procession supposed to represent the Ankou and the beings of the Other World.
In Finistère and Vannetais the tradition of the Halloween vigil, although obviously not bearing this English name, can still be told by the elderly. In Vannetais, it is called gouel kalan-gouiañv, the “festival of the calends of winter”. Linguistically and culturally, it is interesting to note that the Gaelic languages have kept the word samhain, built on the root sam (summer), equivalent to the Brythonic haf (summer), hañv in modern Breton (by aspiration of the s and lenition of the m, both regular patterns of the transition from Gaelic to Brythonic).
Thus, whether samhain is composed on a (disputed) etymology sam (summer) + fuin (end), or on a dative of sam that lacks a word equivalent to “the end” before the root word sam, we note that this festival is in the Gaelic languages “the end of summer”, where it is “the beginning of winter” in Breton (gouiañv hiver, gouiam in Old Breton, on the basis gou- (prefix with diminutive value) and ham été, which gives haf; cf: Brittonic/Gaelic correspondence *giiàmo / gaim-), where the “black months” begin, ar mizioù du.
This festival was accompanied by symbolic rituals, such as chasing away the spirits by sweeping the dust accumulated the rest of the year on the doorstep with a broom broom, or leaving an extra plate at the table for the dead who would visit their families. This is what Tanguy Malmanche described in 1900 in his play Le conte de l’âme qui a faim (bret.: Marvaill ann ene naounek).
In Finistère, although very lively, it is only in Plougastel-Daoulas that the ceremony of the apple tree, gwezenn an anaon, has survived. This pre-Christian tradition has, over time, been integrated by the Catholic leaders of the parish on the date of November 1, for the benefit of the feast of All Saints, thus giving the opportunity for donations in the form of alms.
It is described as a gathering of one or more families organized as a breuriez under one roof to share a meal and celebrate, singing gwerz and telling each other the stories of the Ankou by the fire. A breuriez being a frairie, and knowing that in the 1970s, after Vatican II, the clergy wanted this ceremony to stop, and taking into account the fact that the breuriez/frairies were known throughout Brittany (at least Brittany), one can wonder if this is not indeed the only survival, in Plougastell, of a celebration that had been much more widespread until then.
In Moselle, the Rommelbootzennaat (Night of the Grimacing Beets in Lorraine Frankish) is a tradition celebrated on the eve of All Saints’ Day, mainly in the Pays de Nied and in part of the neighbouring state of Saarland. On the eve of All Saints’ Day, children carve grimacing heads out of beets, vegetables whose harvest marks the end of work in the fields. Illuminated by candlelight, the heads are placed on windowsills, wells, cemetery walls or at crossroads to frighten passers-by. This holiday continued to be celebrated long before the return of Halloween fashion to Europe.
In Belgium, there were traditions in rural areas similar to those of the Jack-O-Lantern. In Flanders, on the occasion of St. Martin’s Day, children dig beets and drill holes in them to represent a grimacing face lit by a candle placed inside the beet. In Wallonia, these lanterns were called Grign’ Dints. These lanterns were made at the time of the harvest, which coincided with the beginning of autumn and the All Saints’ Day celebrations. This practice has been declining since the 1980s. Halloween has only started to be celebrated since the early 1990s.
The city of Richterswil hosts the former Räbeliechtli festival on the 2nd Saturday of November, where people parade through the city with in-ground raves lit by candlelight inside. This festival is part of Switzerland’s living traditions.
It was at the end of the nineteenth century that Halloween became a source of festivity in the United States with costumes and decorations revolving around skulls, ghosts, skeletons, witches. Children dressed as witches or ghosts parade through the streets knocking on doors and demanding small gifts (candy) under the threat of a curse if they refuse. The custom of trick or treat appeared in the United States in the 1930s. Today, Halloween is celebrated by one in two Americans, one in two decorates their home, 72.3% hand out candy and 40.6% dress up. They spend an average of $62 per person, totaling $8 billion.
In Canada, Halloween is widely celebrated. On October 31st, in the evening, children put on costumes of all kinds, funny or scary, and take to the streets to knock on every door and ask for treats. Households participating in the celebration decorate their doorsteps with an illuminated pumpkin or simply plug in the decorations to indicate that children are welcome. In recent years, this festival has grown in size and gives rise to many activities for young and old. The festival also sparked a growing craze for the creation of real horror sets in front of certain houses. Businesses such as restaurants and nightclubs also lend themselves to the game.
However, it was not until the 1960s and 1970s that it really took hold in regions with a large French-speaking majority, such as the Bas-Saint-Laurent. In its manifestations, Halloween is similar to that of Shrove Tuesday, or Mi-Carême, which gave rise in some regions of the country to costumes and the collection of trick-or-treating, notably in Goulet (New Brunswick) and Saint-Antoine-de-l’Isle-aux-Grues (Quebec).
Halloween is celebrated in the Caribbean. In some parts of the British West Indies, there are celebrations in honour of Guy Fawkes Night that take place around Halloween. On the island of Bonaire, children in a town gather in groups, and unlike other places in the world, they celebrate Halloween in candy shops, instead of going door-to-door.
In several countries that do not traditionally celebrate Halloween, its introduction has aroused more or less strong opposition. Some voices have been raised to denounce the growing Americanization of the world, or to fear that religious holidays around October 31, such as All Saints’ Day, will be swept away by this holiday.
In France, the indigenous tradition of Rommelbootzennaat (night of grimacing beets) has been maintained in the country of Nied, in Moselle. On the other hand, Halloween was mainly celebrated in Anglo-Saxon families or groups, but no distributor dared to market the holiday on a large scale. Halloween developed in France from 1991/1992 with an acceleration in 1994/1995. Noticing this phenomenon, Philippe Cahen, creator of foresight consultancy, decided to found the company Optos-Opus and then register the Halloween trademark. At the time, the company marketed sweets, drinks, cakes and various food products, which made it possible to enhance the image of the festival and give it significant visibility among supermarkets. Halloween became a visible phenomenon in 1997.
Everything accelerated in 1997, when the telephone operator France Télécom launched an orange mobile phone called “Olaween”. A major advertising campaign (8,000 pumpkins were distributed at the Trocadero), combined with other commercial initiatives (including specific events within the Disneyland Paris theme park) gave this festival instant media visibility. Coca-Cola, in partnership with other brands, created the event in 1999 by organizing a Halloween Party at the Zenith in Paris reserved for people aged 15 to 25.
At the same time, the brand organizes more than 400 operations in bars and nightclubs in France. Other major brands, such as Orangina, Haribo, Materne, BN, M&M’s and McDonalds, are also trying to take advantage of the popularity of the holiday to launch various product lines in Halloween colours. The Demon’s Salsa is reissued in a remixed version. As early as 1998, Halloween was adopted by retailers and some media, with the holiday falling just at the time of the “off-peak period” before the Christmas holidays.
This importation (especially in mass distribution) was quickly criticized, denouncing it as marketing aimed at making more profit among young consumers (confectionery, toys, masks and costumes, etc.). Nevertheless, the holiday has established itself in France in less than four years as the third commercial holiday of the year, just behind Christmas and New Year’s Day. The company Optos-Opus, which had registered the Halloween trademark in the mid-1990s, ended up losing its right to use the trademark after a decision published by the Commercial Chamber of the Court of Cassation in 2004. The Chambre Syndicale Nationale de la Confiserie states that the registration of a trademark such as Halloween, which represents a public event, is considered a fraudulent act and thus prevents other merchants from marketing products in the name of the holiday. The company Optos-Opus was then fined €5,000 for the benefit of various organisations.
But as early as 2006, many media outlets such as L’Express and 20 Minutes reported a gradual loss of interest in Halloween among the French. The pure commercial logic and the media oversale of the party in France are put forward to explain this rapid return of the pendulum. The situation changed in 2015 when several media, such as 20 minutes, announced a strong return of the festival with a renewed interest among the French and a new success for shopkeepers.
Political and religious aspects
Halloween has also suffered greatly from strong political or religious opposition, with the holiday competing with All Saints’ Day (1 November) and All Souls’ Day (2 November).
The Roman Catholic Church is said to have noticed that a non-Christian population is interested in the meaning of death with Halloween. To recall the meaning of Catholic All Saints’ Day, since 2002 the diocese of Paris has instituted a festive event called, in approximate English (and this to create a play on words in opposition to Halloween), “Holy wins” (possibly translated as “what is holy is victorious”). Hundreds of people participate every year.
A 2005 study by the Research Centre for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (CREDOC), commissioned by the National Trade Union Chamber of Funeral Arts, shows a recent increase in the commercial success of All Saints’ Day. In October, confectioners sell their sweets at 130 compared to 100 in the other months, which shows the success of the festival, at least from the point of view of the confectioners. According to the director of Crédoc itself, “the turnover of the Halloween party in France has never exceeded that of florists for All Saints’ Day”.
In Germany and France, October 31 is the day of the reform. The Evangelical Church distributes Martin Luther candy to discourage children from celebrating Halloween. According to the bishop of Hanover, it is “absurd to celebrate Halloween, Martin Luther having freed Protestants from the fear of demons and witches.”
In Russia, the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church are trying to curb the growing popularity of Halloween. It is now forbidden to celebrate it in Moscow schools.
In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa in 2007 instructed civil servants not to celebrate Halloween because, according to him, the Ecuadorian government is nationalist and the population must celebrate local holidays. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez has already said that Halloween spreads terror and that people must resist the invasion of American culture. In Brazil, Halloween is not celebrated; However, its popularity has increased due to the influence of American culture. There is also opposition among the inhabitants as to whether this day should be celebrated. In 2005, the government created the “Day of the Saci” (Dia do Saci, in Portuguese), which takes place on the same date as Halloween and pays tribute to a character from Brazilian folklore.
In Mauritius, this quest for sweets is sometimes carried out by children, although it is not entirely part of the country’s customs.
In Morocco, Halloween is not celebrated much but its popularity is growing rapidly to the point of seeing pumpkins in some neighborhoods, children in costumes and adults organizing parties.
Health & Safety
At every Halloween party in the United States, there are persistent rumors that people are introducing poison or dangerous objects (blades, needles) into candy. Some police stations even organize a free inspection of treats. Some hospitals have also offered X-ray scanners to find hypothetical malicious objects to reassure children and parents. Most of these rumors are hoaxes, sometimes made by the children’s own family. Yet, every year, news reports warning people of the danger are broadcast. The 2014 version warns against the distribution of cannabis candies.
The basic safety instructions are regularly reminded:
- Only collect in groups, and accompanied by an adult for the youngest;
- Never enter strangers’ homes;
- Do not eat unwrapped treats, and if possible wait to sort them at home;
- Be visible to circulate in the dark.
In Churchill, Manitoba, a security perimeter is set up with cars equipped with flashing lights to allow children to celebrate Halloween away from polar bears, who can sometimes roam the city after dark.
In the U.S., Michigan and parts of the Canadian Maritimes, some people take the “bad moves” aspect of the party to heart. There are acts of vandalism such as toilet papering (the act of unrolling rolls of toilet paper in trees or on public roads) or burning cars. In some places, police officers are throwing eggs at each other in the hope of reducing vandalism.
In 2014, a few days before Halloween, several assaults were committed by people dressed as evil clowns. Some clown appearances are just meant to scare passers-by, others go as far as physical assaults. This phenomenon has taken on a significant scale that has caused fear in several French cities where many alerts have multiplied. For Halloween, the authorities strongly advised the population not to dress up as clowns, which did not prevent the numerous reports of aggressive clowns during the night of Halloween. The psychosis of the aggressive clowns began again the following year, in October 2015. People dressed as clowns had fun chasing three young schoolgirls by threatening them with knives.
Halloween is the perfect opportunity to dress up, to become whatever we want, for an evening. This tradition is important for the Halloween party: no costumes, no treats. However, hypersexualization is pervasive in costumes for young women. Indeed, the majority of costumes intended for this group are made to be sexy: “sexy nurse”, “sexy policewoman”, “sexy schoolgirl”, and much more. This observation is rarely repeated in the case of disguises intended for men. In an article in Le Cahier, the person explains that she sees a lot of young women on social media who are wearing bikini-style costumes. The image of the woman continues to be the desire of the man through the wearing of his disguises.
According to Hiton (2021), hypersexualization is not only present on Halloween, it is omnipresent in several spheres of our daily lives such as video games, television, advertisements and on the internet. According to Richard Bessette (2006 city in Hiton, 2021), hypersexualization can be defined as the excessive use of one’s body for the purpose of seducing others. According to Lamb and Koven (2019), hypersexualization does not only come from the media.
Young girls can also internalize these beliefs through their interpersonal relationships with family and peers (Lamb et al. Koven, 2019). Hypersexualization can affect young girls’ mental health. Indeed, Aubrey (2006) cited in Lamb et al. Koven (2019) explains that they are more likely to engage in self-policing behaviours towards their body. From more, according to Grabe and Hyde (2009); Ward Seabrook, Managoand Reed (2016) cited in Lamb et al. Koven (2019), they may develop poorer self-image, which leads to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Germany, the German-speaking part of Switzerland and Austria have a similar traditional holiday called “Rübengeistern”.
A similar festival also exists among the Kabyles in Algeria, with a candy or monster song.
Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in China, but there is a nearby holiday, the Ghost Festival.
In Mexico, the holiday is not traditionally celebrated, but Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 1 and 2. Despite the relationship to death present in both cases, the two holidays have distinct meanings. Firstly, because of their very different cultural and geographical origins. And secondly, because of their rather different relationship to the family, the celebration of the dead in Mexico being above all a means of reuniting family members, living and dead. Halloween, however, is increasingly celebrated in Mexico, in imitation of certain social classes towards the United States, and as a prelude to the Day of the Dead. In addition, although the iconography of the Day of the Dead favors traditional or traditionally Mexican-inspired decorations, it is also not uncommon to come across typical Halloween decoration elements during this holiday.
In the Isle of Man, October 31 is the feast of Hop-tu-Naa.
In Catalonia, there is the Chestnut Festival, or Castanyada, which originates from an ancient funerary ritual festival.
In Portugal, the “Magusto”, chestnut festival, is celebrated between All Saints’ Day and Saint Martin’s Day.
In Galicia, the “Magosto” festival is celebrated in the same way as in Portugal.
Japan has its traditional feast of the dead: O-Bon. This is an opportunity to visit the graves of the deceased and place offerings or flowers. This festival takes place from 13 to 15 August.
Halloween in popular culture
Halloween is the pretext for a large number of works, including films such as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) (by Bill Meléndez), Night of the Masks (1978) (by John Carpenter) and its sequels, Hocus Pocus (1993), (by David Kirschner and Mick Garris), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), (by Henry Selick) and Trick ‘r Treat, (2008) (by Michael Dougherty) (see also a famous sequence from The Song of the Missouri (1944) by Vincente Minnelli) but also television such as Halloween Witches and its sequels, The Ghost of Halloween, The Savior of Halloween or The Halloween Crime.
American soap operas and television series often have an episode dedicated to Halloween, if not several (see The Simpsons for example, or the series Friends or in detective series such as NCIS: Special Investigations). In Canada, there is the Halloween music video for Les Têtes à claques and many episodes of Goosebumps.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Halloween is the day that the “demons” hate, the day they prefer not to leave their homes, revolted at the idea of not being taken seriously enough and being devalued by a commercial demonstration. Which is a curious contradiction: in the Celtic tradition, the festival of Samhain was precisely that of the meeting of the visible and invisible worlds, the day of the year when the living could have access to the “Other World”.
In Charmed, Halloween is considered the most magical day of the year, wizarding New Year. It is through this magic that demons defeated in the previous year can return from the dead for the day and move freely among the festive humans. For witches, this is a day when primitive magic can be summoned easily. A pointed hat allows them to easily capture celestial energies while a broom or an apple are invaluable means of defense and attack.
In American Horror Story, several episodes are devoted to Halloween in various ways: Season 1 (Murder House) presents October 31 as the only day when the ghosts of the mansion can escape from its grasp to visit their loved ones or for other reasons, before returning at daybreak on November 1. An exorcism takes place on the eve of Halloween in season 2 (Asylum) and the consequences will be catastrophic: the Devil himself will enter the asylum. In season 3 (Coven), a fight between witches and the undead takes place, and ghosts from the past of some of the protagonists will resurface to put them to the test.
In season 4 (Freak Show), Halloween is celebrated with a unique concert offered by Elsa Mars, the owner of the circus, and despite the superstitious warnings of the troupe’s “monsters”, she will bring Edward Mordrake back from the dead, a man with a bloody past and hiding a dastardly secret. In season 5 (Hotel), the evening of October 31 is commonly referred to as “the Night of the Devil” and sees various serial killers and famous assassins from the United States gather at the Cortez Hotel such as Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos and John Wayne Gacy, all welcomed by James Patrick March. In season 8 (Apocalypse), a costume ball is organized to celebrate Halloween, and it will also be an opportunity for a malevolent character to commit a real massacre, which will also mark the return of emblematic characters from the series.