The origins of Halloween…our spookiest festival!

Most children love Halloween; at Forest School exploring the origins of the Celtic fire festival of Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “sow-win”) is a great way to start thinking about natural cycles. Samhain is the fire festival that celebrates the end of harvest and was in the past often viewed as the most important celebrations of the year. The Celts believed there was a barrier between them and the underworld – the home of the spirits of ancestors – and that it was at its thinnest at this time of year. Thin enough for the spirits to cross over into the real world! The Celts also saw this time of year as the beginning and the end of the year with the falling leaves making way for new growth.

Think about what’s happening to the leaves outside right now. Can you see how leaves and plants dying and rotting would make the Celts think that dark spirits were near? Can you see how they saw bare branches on trees as a new beginning?

To make sure they wouldn’t be recognised and kidnapped by faeries or monsters from the underworld, the Celts would disguise themselves by dressing up. In the spirit of community and protection, the Celts would also light their home fires from a large communal fire lit in the village or town.  So, you see, village bonfires at this time of year pre-date Guy Fawkes and All Saints Day by hundreds of years. In the Middle Ages, farms continued to have fires to protect them from fairies and witches and carved jack o lanterns from turnips or pumpkins. Something which we still do now.  The 31st of October became known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween, still called that today. It was the Irish and Scottish tradition of ‘mumming’ or dressing up and going door to door singing songs to entertain the dead in return for food that gave rise to trick or treating. The tricks that used to be blamed on those naughty Faeries from the Underworld!

So while you’re at Forest School this Halloween, maybe share the  origins of this wonderful festival and try out some of our Halloween based activities below.

Halloween activities for Forest School

Use your judgement about how scary to make it!