Today, the 31st October, is All Hallows Eve, more commonly known as Halloween. It is the first day of Hallowtide, which also includes the Feast of All Hallows, also known as All Saints’ Day, which is celebrated on 1st November, and the Feast of All Souls, which is celebrated on 2nd November.
In today’s talk, I explain the origins of Hallowtide and how Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day were celebrated in medieval and Tudor England.
Did I scare you? Happy Halloween! I hope you have a wonderful day whatever your plans and whether you’re celebrating All Hallows Eve or not.
I thought I’d celebrate this feast day by sharing some Tudor Society resources on Halloween and also Tudor ghosts:
The 31st October was and is, of course, All Hallows Eve or Halloween. Although it was a religious festival in medieval and Tudor times, it has its roots in Pagan celebrations and it comes from Samhain, the Celtic new year festival which was celebrated from sunset on 31st October to sunset on 1st November. On that night, it was believed that the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead was at its thinnest and that the souls of the dead and evil spirits could walk the earth. Church bells were rung, bonfires were lit and people wore masks to ward off these spirits and to send them on their way. Farm buildings and homes were also blessed to protect them from evil spirits and witches.
In the medieval period, wakes were held to mark the end of summer and to dedicate the local church. The feasting and partying could go on for days, so, in 1532, Henry VIII stamped down on this practice and ordered that the first Sunday in October was the day for local parish churches to hold their dedication service.