Some years ago, Halloween was called the Mischief Night in some parts of UK. The festival was associated with mischief making, in which people would take away their doors from their hinges. They would throw the doors into a pond or would take them along the away. The boys would indulge in other mischief like changing shop signs, whitewashing doors and tying door latches. Today, the festival has been nicknamed as Nutcracker Night or Snap Apple Night in England. It is related to the popular tradition, among the families in England, to sit around a hearth on Halloween. In the past, they would indulge in roasting nuts and having apples. They would exchange stories and also indulge in holiday games like snap apple.
In the middle of the sixth century, even after the arrival of Christianity in UK, people continued to follow the ancient pagan rituals. The Fathers at the Church were worried over the growing supremacy of non-Christian festivals over the Christian holy days. Pope Gregory I’s successor, Pope Boniface IV declared that May 13 will be observed as the All Saints’ Day. The pagans were extremely delighted to have this festival included in their calendar. But at the same time, they would not give up Samhain, the festival of the dead. However, Pope Gregory III was determined to eliminate Samhain and intentionally linked the Christian festival of All Saints’ Day to Samhain.
Pope Gregory III declared November 1 as the All Saints’ Day, which later came to be known as All Hallows. Samhain came to be known as the All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, owing to the fact that it falls the night before All Hallows. The Pope further allowed people to dress up to pay honor to the saints. Soon, the Church came up with a decision to include a second day to the festival. It was to be observed on November 2 and was named as All Souls’ Day. The day was dedicated to the remembrance of the departed souls. The festival marked the reciting of prayers and lighting of candles, to lessen the duration of suffering for the dead, before ascending to heaven.
In England, the ‘trick or treat tradition’ is not followed. Instead, the ritual of Soul Caking takes place, in which the children go from house to house, collecting money for the poor. People also give a soul cake to the children and on receiving it, the children recite a prayer for the departed relatives of the donor. However, the Soul cakes bear different names in different parts of England. For instance, in some parts, it is called the Saumas or Soul Mass cake and made out of dark fruitcakes. In another region of England, the cake are covered in caraway seeds and formed into a bun. People in some parts of UK light turnip lanterns on their gateposts. They believe that by lighting lanterns, their home will be protected from the spirits.
Children also engage themselves in making punkies on Halloween. They do this by cutting out a pattern out of large beets. Then, they go from one house to another, singing the Punkie Night Song. People treat the children with money. People in North England consider lighting bonfires as pivotal to the Halloween celebration. They also believe this time to be haunted with witches. In Lancashire, people follow the ‘Lating’ or ‘Lighting the witches’ as an important part of the celebration. As per this custom, people carry lighted candles from eleven to midnight. It is popularly believed that if the candles burn consistently, the person carrying the candle would be safe. If it is blown out by witches, several bad omens may follow.