The original Halloween was for adults and was a pretty scary event all things considered. It was taken across the Atlantic to the the States by waves of immigrants where over the years it was transformed into a more commercially minded, child orientated kind of party and from there it was re-exported back to Europe in its mutated form.
It is a relatively new phenomenon here in Italy and people have not yet really worked out just what is supposed to happen. They know that there is a good deal of dressing up to be done with masks and stuff and so what actually appears on the night is a slightly “horrored” up version of carnival but in October and not February.
That is unless the rain steps in. This year once again Halloween in Barga was more or less cancelled as torrential rain – 8cms of the stuff in the past 24 hours dropped on the city and washed out any idea of an outside festa.
A quick check on some of the bars and restaurants showed that the Halloween spirit of 2010 is hiding in the corning whimpering to itself. Very few costumes could be found and next to nobody on the streets. The exceptions were L’osteria in Piazza Angelio, a private party in one of the cantinas and Paolo Gas’s bar just outside the main gates. In Barga Giardino it was Bar Sport holding up their end with some spectacularly dressed bar staff but over all a pretty dismal affair.
Could it just be that the short love affair with Halloween in over in this area ?
Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”. The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”. A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced Kálan Gái av).
The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year”.
The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. – source