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Posted on: 31/10/2013

We love Halloween. And although our expert agents won’t be dressing up as frightening ghouls whilst in work (we have a strict no-fang policy), we have been asking them what they know about the festive period.

Not a lot, is the answer.

They get dressed up as witches, ghosts and monsters and party or they take the kids trick or treating. So we thought we would give an education, and see exactly how a celebration of the undergrowth and everything spooky became oh so popular in the UK and London…

What, why, when, how?

Many believe that Halloween began in the States. This is not the case. In fact, Halloween’s origins lie in the UK. You must have heard of the term All Hallows’ Eve? This is what the more traditional celebrator in London would call the holiday. And the term (yes, you’ve guessed it) is British!

It comes from the Old English word for holy, ‘halga’. The word hallow used to refer to a holy person and the night before All Saints’ Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve…AKA, Halloween! Historians have traced the origins of Halloween in two pagan belief systems – Pomona and the Celtic festival of Samhain. The Samhain celebration recognised the Feast of the Dead in the Pagan calendar, which is the time of the year when the spirits become closer to the living.

Today, this celebration has evolved to mark the passing on, not only of people, but of jobs, relationships, and all other significant changes.

The date:

Samhain celebrated over a three day period from 31 October. Some day this is the time when The Lord of the Dead was rejoiced. This may be another reason why this date has stuck firmly in our diaries, year in, year out.

This festival was commemorated with food and bonfires…not far from how we celebrate today. This has moved into the customs of trick or treating, pumpkins, Halloween parties and apple bobbing. Halloween has become a yearly fixture and a commercial dream; from themed bar nights and now even pet costumes, with the digital age taking it to new extremes and the world can share their crazy costumes.

Why pumpkins?

No reason really. Maybe because they are oddly bright orange? May be because they are easy to carve? What we do know, however, is that the bolshy pumpkin was the replacement veg of the turnip – which was the first veg of choice for this spooky celebration. Bonfires have been especially popular at Halloween, although their use varies widely between this celebration and Guy Fawkes Night.

A common early use was to burn the Harvest chaff but bonfires were later seen as guiding Christian souls in purgatory or of warding off witchcraft and the plague. Today, we are more likely to light a fire and cook marshmallows on it than a witch. But as you can see, Halloween’s history goes back a long, long way, and there are many ways to celebrate it.

Here are the best Halloween/Guy Fawkes nights across Essex and London:

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