Translation musings: Happy Hallowe’en!

Oct 31, 2014 | World events

PumpkinsDid you know that, although we maybe think of Halloween as being one of those annoying American imports, with the trick or treating and increasingly elaborate costumes, the word at least comes from the Scots. The Scottish word, even, contracted to e’en or een and, over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Halloween.

Traditions here in the UK do tend towards the horrible fun! From watching horror movie marathons, to donning scary costumes and marauding through the streets in search of sweets. And don’t forget the pumpkins!

However, Halloween’s origins are a little more serious and sacred. Also known as All Hallow’s Eve, this annual celebration is observed in a number of countries across the world. It is the eve of All Hallow’s Day, the beginning of the three day religious observance, Hallowmas or the Triduum of All Hallows (or All Saints) and is a time to remember the dead, with the dates being established in the 8th century.

There are a couple of trains of thought on the origins of All Hallow’s Eve with many believing it to have been influenced by the Celtic or Pagan harvest festivals and festivals of the dead, before being Christianized. However,  other scholars maintain that it has solely Christian roots.

Apart from applying liberal amounts of fake blood and bobbing for apples, there are many other traditions. In Poland, for example, that includes praying out loud while walking through the forest, in order to comfort the lost souls of the dead. And, although Trick or Treating is considered a US import, the Scots, as well as providing us with the name Halloween, have long had their own tradition of ‘guising’; children in disguise going from door to door for gifts of food or coins. However, instead of the threat of a trick, the children are expected to perform for their treats.

Enjoy your night!


 Image credit: Sandra Cunningham @