The only thing I knew about Halloween as a child in the 70s was I could dress up and gather candy from neighbours. My older siblings, children in the 50s and 60s, remember trick or treating, but they did not start as young as many do today. A friend of mine remembers going when she was five in 1953. Her mother didn’t trick or treat but recalls a Halloween party at school. My parents did not celebrate Halloween. They were children in the 20s and 30s.
The earliest record of trick or treating in Canada took place in Kingston, Ontario, in 1911. At that time, it was called “guising”. It was brought to Canada by the Scottish and Irish who dressed in disguises and went door-to-door begging for food or money. They paid for the treat by singing, dancing or performing a trick. Guising can be traced back to the 1500s.
Many attribute the origin of Halloween to the Celtic festival Samhain that began more than 2,000 years ago. It marked the end of the harvest (summer) and the beginning of the darkness (winter). The Celts believed the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead disappeared, and souls could cross over.
Not all visiting souls were friendly. Some caused trouble, so people dressed as devils, witches and mischievous beings to ward off spirits.
Samhain might not have been the beginning of this annual event but instead the continued commemoration of something that occurred thousands of years earlier. More than 150 years ago, a man from the Maritimes was credited for shedding light on this.
Robert Grant Haliburton (1831-1901) was born and raised in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He was a lawyer, author, anthropologist and antiquarian. He published a paper called Festival of the Dead in 1868. Through nine years of research, he discovered the coincidences in the observance of the festival by different nations remarkable.
Haliburton stated, the festival was “observed at or near the beginning of November by the Peruvians, the Hindoos, the Pacific Islanders, the people of the Tonga Islands, the Australians, the ancient Peruvians, the ancient Egyptians, and the northern nations of Europe.”
He concluded the festival could not have been preserved by modern calendars but had to have been started and regulated by a visible sign from nature. Not only was this festival taking place around the world at the same time by cultures that had no contact, it also marked a similar event: death. In Peru, November was “the month of carrying corpses”. In ancient times in Mexico, it was known as the end of the world.
One modern-day theory connects Haliburton’s research with the Taurid meteor stream. Earth passes through the Taurids from late October to early November, and it’s speculated meteors from this stream struck the Earth around 9,600 BC. One crater associated with this time was found at Bloody Creek, NS.
Meteor strikes probably caused the great ice sheets in North America, Eurasia and South America to melt quickly, ending the Younger Dryas period. Sea levels rose about 400 feet, devastating settlements along the water.
Pulling all this research together has allowed some to speculate Halloween is actually a remembrance day the marks the devastation caused by the meteors. For many, it was the end of the world, a time when death consumed the thoughts of survivors.
To learn more about this fascinating subject, explore the following links:
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Robert Grant Haliburton
- The Day of the Dead by Robert Grant Haliburton on Toronto Public Library (PDF)
- Cosmic Lessons: The Day of the Dead by Randall Carlson on Sacred Geometry International.
Randall Carlson posted a podcast to his YouTube channel today. It explains a little more about the coincidences and speaks of Haliburton: Ep001 The Cosmic Origins of Halloween (an introduction) New Series: Randall Reveals.
All images are from Pixabay.