Great reasons to celebrate the magic of life in October

So what are you doing this Halloween? Celebrating, going out, going ‘out-out’, or staying in? Halloween is actually thousands of years old, originally a Celtic celebration called Samhain. Marking the end of the harvest season and the arrival of winter, bonfires were lit and people wore special costumes to banish evil spirits.

Because the Celtic day began and ended at sunset, around half way between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, the party kicked off on the evening of 31st October. And that’s why we still celebrate Halloween – which translates as ‘All Hallows Eve, ‘hallows’ being ghosts or spirits.

Halloween is one of the few ancient festivals that wasn’t fully co-opted by Christianity, and its pagan roots remain clear. But it isn’t the only thing to celebrate during October. This is Black History Month, dedicated to the history of the people who made their way here from African and Caribbean communities to become valued members of UK society. It’s a time for celebration, but also for recognition and sombre reflection.

If you need an excuse to put your alternative party clothes on and celebrate the wonders of life, October delivers plenty of great reasons to dress up and have some fun. Here are some of the best and the most eccentric.

October ‘awareness days’ – The perfect excuse to celebrate life

Saturday 14th October is National Album Day, time to download an album you love, dig out an old favourite on CD, or tap into the latest trend and buy some actual vinyl. And there you have it - the beginnings of a party.

Monday 16th October marks the start of UK Coffee Week and on Friday 20th it is Global Champagne Day, a great excuse to pick up a bottle or something bubbly, whether it’s actual champagne or something just as good – cider, sparkling wine, whatever. And Saturday 21st is Apple Day.

The 22nd October is International Stammering Awareness Day and on Tuesday 24th it is World tripe Day, an event so bizarre we’re not really sure what to say about it! Thankfully on the 25th National Pumpkin Day takes the taste away.

We celebrate National Black Cat Day on 27th and on 28th it’s Wild Foods Day. Dandelion leaf salad, anyone? On Sunday 29th it’s RSPB Feed the Birds Day, which celebrates our relationship with birds and encourages more people to feed them. Daylight Savings ends on the same day, then it’s only two days to go to Halloween itself.

How people celebrate Halloween around the world

In Mexico the Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—honours deceased loved ones and ancestors, a vividly colourful celebration like no other. In Italy All Souls Day is a religious matter as well as a way to remember lost loved ones. But on the island of Sardinia they do something a bit different, carving intricate and beautiful pumpkins called Concas de Mortu, ‘heads of the dead.’

Austria loves its pumpkins too, dedicating an entire season to them. They don’t celebrate Halloween as such but there’s usually a Halloween parade these days and the carved pumpkins are absolutely amazing. Make your way to Poland for Zaduszki, their version of All Souls' Day on 1st November. The tradition here is different; they light up the graves of the dead with pretty lanterns, wreaths and gifts, and it’s a serious and respectful occasion.

Japan has adopted Halloween with enthusiasm, adding its own flavour to the event. They celebrate their dead formally on a day called Obon, leaving Halloween itself for the costumes. It’s all about the dressing up, partying, and clubbing. Germany marks All Hallows Eve, followed by All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls Day on the 2nd. While the newer All Saints Day was created to mask the old pagan event, many people celebrate them both. Traditional decorations is the name of the game as people place candles and lamps on graves, adding fragrant fir tree branches and pine cones.

In the Philippines they celebrate something like Halloween, and they call it Pangangaluluwâ. The event blends a number of local cultural influences but also includes trick or treating, parades, costumes, and other Halloween traditions originating in the USA. At this time of year Filipino children play tricks on the family and go to people’s houses singing, a bit like carol singers, to be rewarded with treats. They even hang Christmas decorations up, in line with the local tradition of marking the festive season from September onwards. Guatemalans spend the first couple of days of November celebrating their dead with an extraordinary kite festival. It’s called the Barriletes Gigantes festival, the giant kites festival, and involves stunning colourful kites. made by hand and representing the connection between the living and the dead.

Halloween in the UK

Halloween in the UK is a mish-mash of traditional Celtic celebrations, home-grown additions and newcomers from the USA. Roll back time to the 1970s, for example, and there was no such thing as trick or treating over here. Now it’s something kids all over the UK love to do at Halloween. We used to carve faces into root vegetables. In the 1970s it was usually a turnip rather than a pumpkin, pumpkins being an American thing and relatively recent arrivals. In the north of England people used to hang branches from the rowan tree – a tree that’s also called ‘witch hazel’ - outside their doors and windows to keep the evil spirits away, and place lamps and candles in the windows for the same reason. Apple bobbing was a big thing, where you tried to grab apples in a bowl of water with just your teeth, keeping your hands behind your back. And home-made toffee apples were a big treat.

Nowadays adults are just as likely to dress up in scary costumes as children, and some towns and cities hold enormous zombie parades involving hundreds of people dressed up, staggering around the streets covered in ‘blood’. This is a colourful time of year so see what we have in store to help you celebrate October 2023!

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