Authentic Halloween traditions aren’t actually all that hard to find because so many of our modern-day activities have their roots in true Halloween traditions. The first three traditions I have listed are pretty common and well-known, though their origins are still interesting. The last two may be more of a surprise, and probably a little more Pagan for you.
Though our Pagan ancestors didn’t have Ninja Turtle costumes, the act of dressing up at Halloween is definitely traditional. With the belief that spirits would roam the Earth on this night, it’s no surprise that people began to wear costumes. The exact reasoning isn’t know, but it’s probably about honoring those dead spirits or possibly as a way of blending in with them to avoid any mischief from the spirits. Costumes were simple, usually with tattered clothes and blackened faces to look like the dead.
Trick or Treating
With village people all getting costumed up every year at Halloween, it’s natural that festivities started to build from that. People roamed the streets in their disguises, and some would start to perform in hopes that passersby would give them a coin or a treat. It eventually developed into people going door to door, to become a simple request for a token or they would play a trick. It was all done in good fun though, and it was never a mean-spirited practice.
The original Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins actually started with turnips. The hard roots would be hollowed out to make lanterns, so candles could be carried to ward off the evil spirits in the night. Only when the tradition of trick or treating came to North America did the pumpkin start to get involved. When people started to celebrate Halloween here, they started using pumpkins because they were much larger and so easy to hollow out. Being in season at this time of year made them the perfect turnip replacement.
Now we get to the less mainstream and commercial Halloween traditions. Since October 31st is considered the one day of the year when spirits can cross over and walk in our world, it is also the day to remember the dead and give honor to ancestors. Sometimes people will put out family photos at this time of the year, or just tell stories about ancestors past. Another similar tradition is to set an extra place at dinner that night, so that a loved one’s spirit can join your family.
Another tie-in with the wandering spirits of Samhain night is to practice divination, particularly Tarot readings. Specifically, using divination tools to make contact with departed spirits is the most common approach on Halloween, but any sort of reading would do.
These are some of the main Halloween traditions that have their roots in our past but are still quite common today. I hope you find something that suits your fancy so you can enjoy the Sabbat holiday to its fullest.