“We are Nigerians, we don’t celebrate Halloween”, yeah, that was before! Like every other western tradition, Halloween is slowly slipping into the Nigerian pop-culture. In the last three years, we have witnessed Halloween parties hosted in some parts of Nigeria and with every passing year, the celebration is fast becoming an annual event like Christmas and Easter. Halloween themed parties are usually marked by costumes, spooky decorations and a night of scare or tricks or treats, (depending on your age group).
Although, this is a new excuse for Nigerians to party and have a good time (because nobody does that better than us), Halloween has been part of the western civilization for thousands of years. If we are going to start having Halloween, we should know the origin. So, let’s go back to the beginning of Halloween.
Halloween is celebrated every year on October 31. Its origin can be traced back, 2000 years ago to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. During this festival, the Celts (people that lived in the areas now known as Ireland, Britain and Northern France) wore costumes to perform rituals to ward off ghosts. They would set bonfires to rekindle their hearth fires for the winter and frighten away evil spirits. They sometimes wore masks and other costumes to avoid being recognized by ghosts and evil spirits. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1 and they believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Therefore, on the night of their new year’s eve, October 31st, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
Then, in the 18th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st All Saints Day, a day to honour all saints and Christian martyrs. All Saints Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with bonfires, parades and costumes dress-up as saints, angel, devil, witches, etc. Eventually, All Saints Day adopted some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.
The second half of the 19th century witnessed mass immigration of Irish into America which further popularized Halloween in America and internationally. Between the 1920s – 1930s, Halloween had deviated from a spiritual and cultural festival to a secular tradition, a night of costumes, scare, parades, parties, trick or treats, ghost-stories and the likes. Associated with the celebration are scary beings such as ghosts, witches, werewolves, and vampires. In recent times, costumes from movies like “Star Trek”, “Harry Potter” and “Mortal Kombat”, have been added to the list. The most symbolic Halloween tool is jack-o’-lantern, a hollowed-out pumpkin with a scary face carved on it.
In our beloved 21st century, Halloween has almost evolved into a worldwide celebration. Africa and other parts of the world where the celebration is less popular are slowly beginning to embrace Halloween. In pop-culture, several classic movies adaption of Halloween like “Halloween” and “Scream” gave birth to slasher movies such as “Hell Fest”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Friday the 13th”, which contributed to the popularity of Halloween.
In the next ten years or less, Halloween will probably have achieved the status of a worldwide holiday. A time for high-schoolers and youths to hold a scary themed night of drinking, excessive partying and pulling pranks on unsuspecting victims. A time for kids to eat excess candies and stack up for next year and a time parents and adults can be whoever they want to be.
So, I know it is not fully a thing in this part of the world, but still… Happy Halloween!