Bullion Holiday Deals: Halloween

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Bullion Exchanges! Every year in parts of North America and Europe on October 31st, children roam the streets wearing horrifying or heroic costumes and looking for treats. Spooky decorations line neighborhood lawns, and scary movies fill the theater. It is the one time a year where we let our darkest impulses bubble to the surface, as we play our evilest tricks on each other under the security of our masks. Or, you know, just eat too much candy.

Halloween is believed to have many potential origins, with the two most popular theories being the Gaelic festival Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saints’ Eve.

Samhain

Samhain is a Gaelic harvest festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It usually takes place starting on October 31 and lasting through November 1st. Celebrants see it as a “liminal time,” where the boundaries between the physical world and the spirit world grow weaker, and fairies freely roam the Earth. Although modern fairies are seen as cute, benevolent, and harmless, ancient depictions of fairies warned of them as mischievous tricksters who would frequently spirit people away, never to be seen again. To disguise themselves from the fae folk, celebrants would often wear animal or monster costumes. They would also leave offerings of food and drink outside for the fairies, to keep them from playing tricks on them. Here, we can see potential origins for trick or treating.

On a more positive note, families on Samhain also believed that fairies might not be their only supernatural guests during this liminal time. Hoping that their deceased family members would cross over to visit them as well, they would set places at their dinner table for them. This is similar to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (link to dia de los muertos page), which takes place on the same day. However, the two have separate origins, and the Mexican holiday was supposedly celebrated in the Summer before Spanish colonization.

Traditional Halloween games such as apple bobbing also have potential origins here. Once all the offerings were set, celebrants would retreat indoors to engage in rituals, drink, and play games. These included divination rituals involving apples and nuts, which in modern times have become apple bobbing and nut roasting. People might also light bonfires, as they believed fire mimicked the life-giving powers of the sun. Also, it was cold outside.

Samhain has a wide range of other similarities to Halloween, including other potential origins for trick or treating such as the hobby horse tradition. Here, a man would dress as a white mare and march house-to-house reciting verses in exchange for food. Donating could bring good fortune in the coming year, while not offering anything might bring bad luck. But the origins of Halloween become less clear with the introduction of Christian tradition.

All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows' Day, is a Christian tradition marking its way back to the early days of the church. Though local communities have practiced similar holidays for much longer, Pope Gregory III officially established the holiday sometime between 731 and 741 when he set aside an oratory in St. Peters to honor the saints on November 1st. This designated November 1st as All Saints’ Day, and October 31st as All Hallows’ Eve. In 837, Pope Gregory IV ordered its general observance, cementing the holiday. 

Here, we find another potential origin for trick-or-treating, called “souling.” During souling, christened poor, often children, would go from home to home collecting “soul cakes,” which the faithful rich would bake. In return, the recipients would pray for the deceased friends and family of the givers. Soul cakes would be marked with a cross, to indicate that they were given as alms, and might also be offered to the souls of the dead directly. 

Shakespeare famously mentions souling in his 1593 comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Christian minister Prince Sorie Conteh once wrote that the practice even involved costumes. As he explains, “It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Even provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities.” Costumes might also be worn by parishioners to honor the saints in churches that were too poor to afford proper relics, a tradition some Christians continue to this day. 

Jack-o-Lanterns might also find their origin here, as lanterns carried during souling. Soulers would supposedly carve these lanterns from hollowed-out turnips, and would use them both as a guide and to represent the souls of the dead. This is similar to another tradition from Samhain, where celebrants would carve grotesque faces into turnips and fill them with candles to ward off evil spirits.

Halloween

Like Christmas, the modern Halloween is likely an amalgamation of both of these traditions, and possibly even more. Though, some scholars suggest it originated as a fully Christian tradition, separate from Samhain. Many world cultures, after all, celebrate similar holidays around similar times. It could be that the onset of winter just brings people together to celebrate the dead. Whatever the reason, Halloween has become one of the modern world’s more fun holidays, allowing us to dress up and live our our deepest and darkest fantasies, if only for one night.

Indulge yourself this Halloween with beautiful and thematic precious metals pieces from Bullion Exchanges, including our silver coins in the shape of skulls, the monstrous Queen’s Beasts series, and even genuine silver bullets.