According to the monsters in The Nightmare Before Christmas;
‘This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!’
And, of course they are right. But did you know there are many other traditions that are celebrated now? Some have Halloween type themes such as Punkie night which is only celebrated in Hinton St George. Punkie night has no concoction with loud music and safety pins, but it has plenty to do with pumpkins. On the last Thursday night in October, locals carrying lanterns made from mangel-wurzels or pumpkins known as ‘punkies’, stop at set sites and sing a song. Legend has it that this tradition started when the local women collected their drunken husbands from a fair one dark evening.
On 1st November in Cheshire, locals engage in ‘souling’. During the festivities mummers perform a play featuring a battle between Knight George and the Turkish Champion; after this cakes known as ‘soul cakes’ are handed out. Originally, the play may have been aimed at repelling spirits. Later, the giving of cakes was added to remember the souls of the departed.
Why is late October and early November so crammed with festivals? In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the time when darkness begins to encroach on our days, this in turn makes it a ‘special’ time.
Halloween itself, has its roots in the pagan festival; Samhain, when the supernatural was at its strongest. Later, this developed into the Christian festival of All Saints' Day, when prayers are offered for the souls of the dead. All of which makes this the perfect time for spooky shenanigans.