Halloween has its origins in Samhain, a Celtic festival with ancient, pagan roots. It marks the end of the harvest, the change of the seasons, and is the time when the gateway to the spirit realm opens. Many of the elements we commonly associate with today’s Halloween, for example dressing up and trick-or-treating, originate in old, Irish customs designed to hide from, emulate, and make offerings to the gods.
The Halloweens of my childhood had extra traditions and games, many designed to take advantage of the night’s otherworldliness. We peeled fruit and threw the skin over our shoulders to see the first letter of our future spouse’s name, ate barmbrack, a kind of fruit-bread with fortunes buried in its slices, (a coin for wealth, a ring for marriage, and so on), and we carved, not pumpkins which are a New World fad, but turnips to make, admittedly somewhat smaller, jack-o-lanterns.
Dressing up was a fundamental component of the festivities, but with a ready made posse of six siblings at home, we rarely made it out of the house to bother our neighbors. Our costumes were basic and self-made, the snacks were ordinary (nuts, apples, and oranges), and the ghost stories were well-worn, nevertheless Halloween was a time of magic, possibility, and spooky fun.
So in my mind, October is a month for change, beginnings, and unexpected influences. Here in Beijing we’re treated to a sustained and vibrant color-change from mid-October through mid-November. To take in the full spectrum of leaves, check out our guide (p38). Inspirational educator Kiran Bir Sethi shares her process for empowering kids to be change makers (p42), we look at one of the biggest changes in a woman’s life, the transition to motherhood (p26), talk to career changing
trailing spouses (p54), and this month we feature my favorite ever beijingkids makeover; turn to p20 and prepare to be amazed. To celebrate Halloween we’ve got tips and resources for hosting your own party, or attending the best kids’ parties around town, including our own beijingkids Halloween Costume Party (p36). See you there! Or for an alternative take, bring your kids on our self-guided ghost-walk (p34). For homespun Halloween costumes ideas and simple refreshments, (which take me back to my childhood), see Canadian International School of Beijing’s mask-making (p40) and the Winterhof family’s fruit-based snacks (p32).
This article originally appeared on page 7 of the beijingkids October 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Aisling O’Brien