Halloween is coming to Gloucester

Balloon on the letterbox: Tahnee Papalia, Codie Hardy, Georgia Graham, Jordyn Crook, Mackenzie Hardy and Nathaniel Graham. Photo: Anne Keen
Balloon on the letterbox: Tahnee Papalia, Codie Hardy, Georgia Graham, Jordyn Crook, Mackenzie Hardy and Nathaniel Graham. Photo: Anne Keen

Love it or hate it, Halloween is coming to town on October 31.

Last year a group of families organised to have balloons placed on their letterboxes to signify they were celebrating Halloween and children were welcome to trick or treat.

According to Gloucester resident, Belle Mulder it was so successful they have decided to spread the word again this year.

She has put a call out on Facebook to let people know if they are interested in taking part in the Halloween tradition of trick or treating, which involves putting on a costume and knocking on you neighbour’s door in the hope of receiving candy, then tie a balloon to your letterbox to let everyone know.

Growing up in Canada, Halloween was a big deal. It was difficult to contain the excitement leading up to the big day. When it finally rolled around we’d get dressed up and wait, very impatiently, for it to get dark. The general rule was you had to wait until the street lights were on, being late autumn it was usually around 6:30pm and then you would go around the neighbourhood knocking on doors.

People let you know if they were open for business by leaving their house light on and you generally stuck to the houses of the neighbours you knew. Most people in my neighbourhood gave out candy but some would give out apples or make you do a trick, like sing a song before they’d handover the goodies. 

The origins of Halloween date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the summer and the last harvest. On the night of October 31, it was believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, so they’d build sacred bonfires, wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, burnt crops and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

When Christianity reached the Celtic lands, the church began All Souls’ Day, to honour the dead celebrated with bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The celebration was called All-hallows and the night before, the traditional night of Samhain, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The celebration of Halloween travelled to America with European immigration and slowly spread throughout the continent. It’s believed the tradition of trick or treating dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.