Guising and Souling

Have you ever wondered the origin of this tradition or why is it celebrated that day? October 31 – Halloween party, November 1 – All saints day and November 2 – All souls day the All Hallow tide season.

Back in my childhood days in the rural area of the Philippines, we used to roam around our neighborhood wearing our usual clothes bringing large plastic bags to “hoard” goodies and bibingka or rice cake. We don’t just stand at the door of our neighbors to ask for goods, but we must join their family prayer. Every family gathered around their dining table with lighted candles and where all their goodies and drinks are displayed, offered a prayer calling for all the souls of their departed loved ones and relatives, only after they have offered their prayers can we grab and bring home the goodies displayed, then we look for another house who haven’t offered their prayers yet as our next destination, this was during 1990’s.

Now that we are approaching this “All Hallow tide” season, I looked for meaning and explanations why we have this tradition during these dates and how it evolved to trick or treat wearing scary costumes.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too.


For the dates it goes back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter (a season made more famous by the movie Game of Thrones, “winter is coming”) , a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. 

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday. 

All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. In the Middle Ages, poor people in Ireland and Britain would go “souling” on Hallowmas (November 1). “Souling” consisted of going door to door asking for food in return for saying prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).The tradition of guising – dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks and dress scary costumes when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.

On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.


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