Halloween is not universally popular in the UK, especially among older people; many see it as a commercial import from the USA, which overshadows Bonfire Night as the main event at this time of year.

Spending on Halloween in the UK is likely to be approaching (or even exceeding) £500m, so it’s certainly important commercially. That includes £17m on 10 – 15m pumpkins. Around one quarter of Brits buy a pumpkin.Which means  of course, that three quarters don’t.

According to YouGov 30% of Brits celebrate Halloween, and of the 70% that don’t, 30% turn their lights off to pretend to trick or treaters that they are not at home!

It can also be argued that Halloween is wasteful. 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are thrown away each year, and a fortune is spent on costumes which will never be used again.

An American import for commercial reasons?

Certainly; but Halloween has ancient roots, which are, of course, disputed.

In ancient Rome, the dead were celebrated in late October in what was known as Feralia. Also in late October the Roman Goddess Pemona, Goddess of fruit and vegetables (symbolised by the apple) was celebrated.

Most historians, however, believe that Halloween was derived from the Celtic festival of Samhain in the British Isles, especially Ireland. The festival celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It was believed that at this time the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

People lit bonfires to appease the dead, sacrificed animals, wore costumes (especially animal heads) and indulged in fortune telling.

Similar practices spread to Germany and Skandanavia.

The early Christians often adapted pagan festivals to Christian principles. In the ninth century, the church moved All Hallows Day (All Saints Day) in which dead saints, believers and martyrs were honoured to the end of October to coincide with Samhain.

In the middle ages people would go from house to house, carrying lanterns, and singing songs in return for food. A refusal to give food was believed to bring bad luck.

During the reformation, protestants condemned the practice of Halloween, which declined in importance in protestant countries.

When the United States was colonised, the southern states and Irish immigrants celebrated Halloween, while the staunchly protestant New England remained opposed to the festival. But by the middle of the nineteenth century pumpkins had replaced turnips as the main symbols. Trick or treating is believed to have started in Canada in the 1920’s.

. Zoom Call From Santa