When you think of Halloween, what do you think of? Yes, lots and lots of candy, but second to that I am guessing the colors orange and black popped into your head.
These colors have been a long-standing Halloween tradition, tracing back 2,000 years to the Celts, who occupied what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France.
As life in that time revolved around food and the harvest, the Celts considered the end of the harvest season to be the end of the year. So each year on the date which in today’s Gregorian calendar system is October 31st, the Celts celebrated New Year’s Eve with a festival called “Samhain,” also known as the Festival of the Dead.
Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”. It was traditionally celebrated over the course of several days. History tells us that the unbleached beeswax candles used in the various ceremonies of the festival were orange, while the ceremonial caskets were covered in black cloths.
The Celts believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain; because some animals and plants were dying, it thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living.
People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.
The Celtic custom of wearing costumes and masks, was an attempt to copy the spirits or placate them. Samhnag — turnips which were hollowed-out and carved with faces to make lanterns — were also used to ward off harmful spirits.
The colors black and orange are an obvious choice to celebrate this holiday, not only because of the traditions they are rooted in, but also because they are reflected in nature during this time of year. The orange colors of the changing leaves and the harvest, and the black of night as daylight hours become shorter and shorter.
Have a Happy Halloween and enjoy all of the traditions that come along with it!