59 – The Halloween Special

As you might imagine since I’m doing an episode on it, Halloween has a lot of British influence upon it. In fact, the name itself comes from Scotland, where All Saint’s Eve (also known as All Hallow’s Eve) was shortened in the 16th century to Halloween. And the name stuck. But as you have probably gathered, originally the day was simply the day before All Saint’s Day (also known as All Hallows or Hallowmas). And this might come as a shock to you, but All Saint’s Day was the day in which early Christians commemorated all their saints… and it is still practiced today.

But how did the day before All Saint’s Day become such a big holiday? And what’s with the costumes, candy, and jack-o-lanterns?

  6 comments for “59 – The Halloween Special

  1. Peter Hollis
    October 25, 2012 at 6:29 am

    This is a great fun episode. Despite its origins rooted in the myths and folklore of Britain, Halloween was barely celebrated at all in Britain when I was a child, nor apparently within living memory of people alive today – although we all loved ghost and horror stories! All the Halloween rituals, Trick or Treating and so on which kids enjoy today comes mainly from the US. I wonder just when it died out in Britain before being revived thanks to American cultural influence.

  2. October 25, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Last year around this time I heard a BBC History Extra podcast in which an author claimed a Welsh origin for much of what we now experience in Halloween. The author particularly cited the example of Welsh kids stealing garden gates on Halloween. Supposedly Welsh miners carried this tradition over to the US.

    I’ve also frequently heard that there was an Irish origin, with the example of carving proto jack-o-lanterns out of turnips. As I can think of no useful purpose for turnips, I have to applaud that practice, if true.

    Having said all of that, I haven’t had the chance to listing to this episode yet, so maybe all that is already in there. Episode 70 was the last one I listened to, so I need to catch up.

    On a wholly unrelated topic, the new Podcast app that Apple came out with after introducing the Iphone 5 occasionally insists on downloading all the episodes of any podcast I’ve already listened to, on my Iphone 4. Does anyone know a fix for that?

  3. Colm
    November 26, 2012 at 5:09 am

    This episode was particularly good!!! Particularly the way in which Celtic British folklore is linked in with the rise of Christianity. I’d love to hear more about the adapptation of pre christian deities into christian saints and to understand just why these folk icons, their tales, and the ideas that they stood for, were so hard to prise away from the British peoples despite centuries of cultural revolution, eg St Brigid…

    • November 27, 2012 at 3:09 am

      That is a fascinating topic, but might be too much of a side note for this podcast. I’ll have to give it some thought.

      • Kate Jessup
        October 29, 2013 at 7:46 am

        Maybe members special? I studied this in university and would be interested in your take on it.

        • October 29, 2013 at 7:51 am

          A members special on what?

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