Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen, Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!” ~Dexter Kozen
Halloween… one holiday where we can all feel like children again. This ancient tradition began before the beginning of Christianity as a Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced “Sah-win”). The Samhain festival celebrated the end of the harvest season and the successful preparations for winter, a time which the people knew would be difficult and dangerous.
In that era, October 31st was considered the official last day of the year, comparable to our New Year’s Eve. The ancient Celts believed that the 31st was the one day of the year when boundaries between the living and the dead overlapped, making it possible for the spirits of the dead to return and mingle with the undead, committing trickery and creating mayhem amongst the living.
Many of our current Halloween traditions were influenced by Samhain rituals. Then the area residents would all put out their home fires and gather together at a huge communal bonfire. Many of them would disguise themselves in costumes so the roaming spirits would not recognize them as they made the trek to and from the village and that’s how the tradition of wearing Halloween costumes began. The bonfires attracted insects, the insects attracted bats and today bats are often a symbolic part of our All Hallows Eve celebrations.
At the end of the Samhain festivities, each person took embers from the community fire home with them, often carrying them in hollowed out turnips (pumpkins turned jack-o-lanterns now replace turnips). If they were able to rekindle their hearth fire using those special sparks, it was a sign the coming year would be good; if they couldn’t get the fire relit with the bonfire embers, it forecasted a plague of bad luck for the new year.
Throughout the centuries Halloween has developed and changed, becoming at some point a religious celebration and at other times condemned by religions as pagan and satanic. The majority of people today, however, consider Halloween simply a time to have fun and celebrate the beauty and abundance of autumn. Many of us enjoy the childlike thrill of being just a bit scared by the idea of ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. That’s why so many people love to decorate their houses for the spook-tacular season. By decorating the porch of your home, rather than just the interior, you get to share the fantasy with all the people coming to visit and those just passing by. The trick-or-treaters will be enchanted by your efforts.
Many of the decorations we use currently are descendants of those ancient Celtic times, like bats, pumpkins, and costumes. Others salute the splendor of the season. Whichever style you prefer, you’ll find delightful inspiration from these boo-tiful photos of some of the world’s best decorated Halloween porches.