The Halloween practices enjoyed by many today sprang from ancient and deep-rooted practices meant to honor the dead and protect the living. The Celtic festival of Samhain celebrated the end of the harvest and the start of the new year on November 1st. Tradition held that on the night of Oct 31st the veil between the land of the living and the land of the departed was lifted and the two could mingle. Bonfires were lit, animal costumes were donned and symbolic sacrifices of the harvest were made to appease the dead and bring favor for the coming year.
With the influence of the Roman conquest new traditions were added to the festival. In the early 7th century the catholic church dedicated an observance known as All-Martyrs Day. Eventually this observance was moved to the beginning of November and became known as All-Saints Day. As with so many other Christian observances of the dark ages this celebration was built into the existing calendar of established pagan festivals to make them more readily accepted by the populace.
Over time All-Martyrs Day became known as All-Hallows, and All-Hallows Eve where the continued concept of the colliding of the seen world of the flesh and the unseen world of the spirit met. Bonfires and costumes continued to play a role, lighting candles to help ghosts find their way home combined with other medieval beliefs regarding black cats and witchcraft were incorporated into the cultural folklore.
By 10th century England poor people went begging house to house and were given Soul Cakes in return for their promises to pray for the dead. Moving forward to mid-19th century America an emphasis on making Halloween a lighter celebration focusing on fun and community took root. Halloween costume parties became highly popular. This trend followed on to modern times. The celebration of the secular holiday includes nods to past traditions with bobbing for apples, trick or treating, and wearing of costumes.
For those of us who enjoy the hobby of collecting dolls and plush animals many fantastical and fun items have been created around a Halloween theme. Enjoy a little seasonal fun in the darkening time of year and add a few spooky treasures to your doll and plush displays.