England's Most Haunted City
western tradition, Hallowe'en,
or All Saints' Eve - the evening of 31 st October
- is a time when all natural laws are suspended
and ghosts and demons roam the world.
It also marks the autumn equinox, a turning point
in the world's natural cycles when day and night
are of equal length. Halloween is the day in ancient
Celtic lore when summer ends and winter begins.
Halloween's earliest associations are with the
European Celtic festival of Samhain , which
marked the end of one year and the start of the
next. Great fires were traditionally lit and purifying
ceremonies carried out. In Cheshire, the villagers
at Alvanley - not far from Chester - still leapt
through the flames in spring and autumn as late
as the 18th century. In some districts the farmers
carried burning brands through the fields to purify
the soil and protect the crops from harm during
the coming year. Even today, bonfires are lit at
this season, albeit on 5th November in Britain,
in the guise of Guy Fawkes night.
Our Celtic ancestors also believed Samhain
(or Hallowe'en) was a time when a doorway opens
between this world and the next, a time when supernatural
creatures come into the open, and the souls of the
dead revisit their former homes. The doorway opened
both ways, too, and the careless or unwary could
be pulled into another world. To our Celtic ancestors,
Halloween was all too literally the 'Night of the
The introduction of Christianity to Britain and Europe saw Samhain taken over and ‘rebranded' as All Hallows, or All Saints' Eve – the night before the Christian feast of All Saints' Day.
Today, Halloween customs continue across Britain and the USA, with children making pumpkin lanterns and dressing up as witches and warlocks, ghosts and skeletons to go ‘trick or treating' – walking from house to house after dark collecting sweets and money.