Halloween has been celebrated for centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tribes who used to light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. It’s got a little more commercialised today but it’s still a fantastic time to be in London, and while we can’t promise you bonfires (and we have been declared an official ‘ghost-free’ zone), we can promise you a very warm welcome at the Rathbone and the perfect base from where to explore London’s creepy goings-on!
But what is Halloween and how did it turn into today’s crazy sugar-fest?
Halloween as we know it today is all about kids dressing up in spooky costumes, going out trick-or-treating, extremely competitive pumpkin carving competitions and gorging on as many sweets and chocolates as possible, but it hasn’t always been like this. In fact, it was never like this…
Where Did Halloween Come From?
Those who know more about this stuff that we do suggest the origins of Halloween come from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain which marked the end of the summer (and therefore the harvest) and the start of the dark, cold winter. It supposedly represented the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead…
They thought that on the night of October 31st (or the corresponding date in their pre-Gregorian calendar) the spirits of the dead would rise up. Each village would light a huge bonfire to ward off evil spirits and the embers of the main village fire would be used by the village elders to light the fires in each home to protect them and to keep them warm.
When the Romans arrived, they introduced the festival of Feralia, a day late in October commemorating the dead as well as a day honouring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Her symbol was an apple and it most likely started the tradition of apple-bobbing.
If we fast forward to the seventh century, the Romans are long gone and as Christianity took hold throughout Europe, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to all Christian martyrs and declared 13th May as All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day. It was taken one step further by Pope Gregory III in around 735 who extended the honours to include all saints. He also changed to date of the festival to November 1st.
Of course, All Hallows’ Day is preceded by All Hallows’ Eve and over the years, All Hallows’ Eve morphed into Halloween.
Talking of All Hallows, when you book your stay at the Rathbone over Halloween, don’t forget to take a trip to All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the City of London built in 675 AD, a full three hundred years before the Tower of London!
Sweets, Costumes & Door-Knocking!
Anyway, when Halloween arrived in the colonial United States, the Christian elements were viewed as almost devil-worshipping by the Protestants and it took on a life of its own. A distinctly Americanised version of Halloween emerged based on community fun, games, seasonal foods and costumes and the dark, superstitious, religious overtones and obsolete pagan rituals took a back seat…
…and that’s the version of Halloween they sent back!
It’s far easier to give the neighbourhood kids a few sweets than to clean flour and eggs off your car and of course kids, as bright as they are, know this fact. Hence the incessant knocking at your front door on October 31st with innocent, butter-wouldn’t-melt looks in their eyes presenting you with open bags…you better drop something in there or it’s a trip to the car wash!
Halloween in London
With the Rathbone as your base for your spooky city stay, there’s plenty of Halloween fun to be had! The London Dungeon have the delightfully named ‘Death Express’ ride and you can scare yourself silly with London’s best ghost tours. Don’t forget Boo at the Zoo, at, you guessed it – London Zoo!
But, with every yin, there’s a yang. Spend the days being spooked out but come back to the Rathbone for a warm welcome, the best location in London, unbeatable value, exquisite comfort and outstanding service from one of London’s best four-star boutique hotels.
So if you’re coming to London this month, don’t forget to make sure you book your stay at The Rathbone now and our concierge will let you know the scariest places to go!