Happy Halloween – but what does it all mean?

Pumpkin LanternWe’re looking forward to lots of spooky goings on in and around Pant in the next few days, but have you ever wondered how Halloween came about and why we celebrate all things ghostly and ghoulish on 31 October?

Sometimes it might seem that Halloween is just the latest American import, given how popular the festival is in the United States. But Halloween started in Europe long ago and developed as Christianity spread around the world.

In pagan times, the Celtic festival of Samhain was held on or around 1 November. Samhain marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter months and was a time when spirits were said to be most active and when the souls of the dead revisited their homes. People made offerings to keep the spirits on side and welcomed the dead by setting places at dinner for departed relatives.

Today’s Halloween customs are mainly Christian in origin. Halloween is the evening before All Hallows’ Day (also called All Saints’ Day) and was traditionally known as All Hallows’ Eve. All Hallows’ Day was originally held in the month of May, but in the 9th Century the Pope switched it to 1 November to coincide with Samhain, possibly because of Celtic influence. The word Halloween dates from around the middle of the 18th Century.

By the end of the 12th Century, bells were being rung for the souls of the dead and ‘soul’ cakes were being made and shared for all Christian souls on All Hallows’ Eve. Groups of children would go from door to door collecting soul cakes in return for offering prayers to the dead – said to be the origin of trick or treating.

It was traditionally thought that the souls of the dead wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided the last chance for them to take revenge on their enemies before they moved on to the next world. So, people would dress up to hide their identities – as we do today at Halloween.

Many Christians in Europe also believed that once a year on All Hallows’ Eve the dead rose from their graves for a wild carnival known as the danse macabre. This was re-enacted by children from the 16th Century onwards and is seen as the reason why we have costume parties at Halloween.

The carved Halloween lantern is supposed to frighten away evil spirits and was traditionally made out of a turnip. The pumpkin was introduced from North America much more recently and has only been associated specifically with Halloween from the mid 19th Century.

Of course, many of the modern images we associate with Halloween are much more recent and are influenced by Gothic literature and horror films – this includes vampires, mummies, Dracula and Frankenstein.

So this year, when you’re out celebrating Halloween and helping to ward off those evil spirits, remember that you’re playing a part in a tradition going back thousands of years…

Hire Pant Memorial Hall

As well as hosting a number of regular events, Pant Memorial Hall is available for private hire. The village hall is a great facility for the village and has hosted birthday celebrations and anniversary parties, as well as a wide range of other events.

The hall is managed by a committee of local people with the aim of providing a first class venue that the whole village can use and be proud of. Facilities include a main hall suitable for meetings, functions and parties, a large kitchen and food preparation area, as well as a serving hatch for a bar. There is also a smaller meeting room.

If you are looking for a great venue in the village for a family get-together, or a meeting place for your charity or organisation, why not ask to have a look round? The hall costs £10 an hour to hire and enquiries should be made on 07913 565708.

The value of local amenities

WCross Guns Inn, Pantith autumn setting in and the nights getting darker, now’s a good time to reflect on the value of local amenities.

When it’s cold, dark and wet people are less likely to travel far from home and, with the exception of the Christmas and New Year period, fewer people go away on holiday.

Dark nights mean more of us stay in the village rather than going to visit distant friends or enjoying the ‘big outdoors’, although there are plenty of great walks to be had during the autumn and winter in North Shropshire and Powys.

Luckily, one of the village amenities in Pant is the Cross Guns Inn and, even on a cold, dark night, the pub is only a short walk away. Sometimes it’s easy to forget on a chilly or foggy evening that the Cross Guns is open and a great place to meet up with friends, family and locals, often in front of a roaring log fire.

We are also very lucky in Pant that there are a number of other ‘locals’ in surrounding villages.

With Camra highlighting that 31 pubs close for good in this country every week, Pant is one of the lucky communities that still has this important village hub. For those with a long memory, or who have been in Pant for many years, you will remember that Pant, at one time, had three pubs to choose from.

The Cross Guns Inn is holding a charity Halloween Pub Quiz on Friday 31st October, so why not form a team with your family, neighbours or friends and support your local whilst raising money for a good cause and having a great time? More details here.

Pant Yesterday

Winding Wheel, Llanymynech RocksWould you like to share any of your historical photographs or pictures with visitors to Pant Today?

Lots of people are interested in local history and their ancestry, with genealogists across the world searching online to find out about their family tree and where their descendents came from.

There are already, of course, many photos of Pant available in leaflets and books and it would be nice for more of them to be online and freely available for people to view. That’s why we’d like to develop an online gallery of images from Pant over the ages. We can caption any photos submitted and also credit the photographer, if known.

It would especially be interesting to see if we can find photographs from ‘workers’ in the village. Often, it is easier to find photos of buildings and landscapes than it is to find photographs and descriptions from the people that actually make up the village. Before the digital age this was especially true for more ‘menial’ trades, as the silver halide photography of the time was very expensive and so ‘saved’ for important occasions. Therefore, if we can find any photographs of local Pant people, it would be great to save them for posterity.

If you only have prints of your photos, don’t worry as we should be able to help you scan them so that they can be uploaded to Pant Today. Just let us know. Please fill in the contact form here, and we will be in touch. Please remember to include a contact number.