One of the things you’ll hear American and Canadian expats lament the most around this time of year, is either 1. the weather (if they’re residing somewhere where Autumn isn’t a season) and 2. the lack of Halloween cheer everywhere else.
Why is that? Why is Halloween mainly a North American, United Kingdom, and Republic of Ireland ‘thing’?
Because Halloween as we call it is traditionally a Celtic pagan holiday called, Samhain. The Celts were a group of pagans that largely inhabited what is now known as (most of) the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Considering that the United States and parts of Canada were colonized by the British and that many Irish populated the United States in her infancy- it’s easy to see how the tradition of this celebration has become a wide-spread holiday in North America (where many of the largest Halloween festivities occur).
Now, our version of Halloween, or Samhain (Gaelic in origin), is different than the sabbat that was originally created. However, some of our rituals and the core belief behind them have persevered.
Samhain is a holiday that celebrates the end of harvest and the onset of winter. Winter, of course, meaning that the nights will be longer as it’s the ‘dark half’ of the year. Traditionally, faces were carved out of turnips or beets, not pumpkins, but were still placed outside of the home to ward off unruly spirits. The core idea that Samhain or Halloween is a time in which, ‘the veil is the thinnest‘, is a surviving belief that is still present on Halloween night.
Typically you’ll hear people call October 31st Halloween, and sometimes October 30th will be ‘All Hallows Eve’. Largely marketed to be a secular holiday in Western society, focusing on cute costumes and bat window clings instead of superstitions. Halloween still retains some elements of spookyness despite being marketed for mass consumption. The shift from radishes to pumpkins likely came from the original Sleepy Hallow tale, and subsequently took root in the United States.
Samhain, however, occurs on November 1st-2nd in Neo-pagan circles. This differs on tradition and region. The focus being that in Neo-Pagan circles there isn’t just one night of ‘activity’, instead there are a series of nights that involve similar rituals spanning from Oct 30th-Nov 2. Depending on what path of Neo-paganism that’s being practiced, they can celebrate in a number of ways and for more than one reason. However, every tradition focuses on the core belief that has persisted since the pagans of old, that on these days ‘the veil is the thinnest’. The ‘veil’ being the wall between the living and the dead, hence all the whispers of spirits and supernatural happenings centered around Halloween lore.
Right now, It’s just after Halloween and my Halloween plans consisted mostly of attending a tour of: Bran Castle, Râșnov Citadel, and Peleș Sinaia.
Tickets: 10 lei for Student tickets. No photography fee.
What is it? Attributed as the photographic inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, although it has no genuine associations with Vlad Tepes.
Tickets: 12.5 lei to get in with your student ID and around 35 lei for photography. (I was charged 37 lei total for both, i’m not sure what the student discount is for photography, as it’s not listed).
What is it? The palace that originally housed the Romanian royal family.
Tickets: 5 lei for admission with your Student ID. No photography fee.
What is it? A historical defense system (fortress) built to protect the nearby villages from invasion. It lies between Râșnov and Brașov, and consists of ruins, however, some souvenir shops can be found inside. There’s even an axe thrower.
Of course, it’s Nov 1st, that’s “not Halloween” in most of the Western world- but it is in Romania!
The biggest Halloween party happens tonight at Bran castle till 4:30am.
I’ll be there, oh yes!
What did you do for Halloween?
Where did you celebrate?