Hallow'een (Holy Evening) is said to have originated in ancient times, when it was believed that the Spirits of the dead returned to their earthly homes for just one night of the year, marking the transition of seasons from the warmth and plenty of Autumn, to the bleak austerity of Winter. We still continue to observe and re-create Hallow'een in our own way, with increasing imagination and enthusiasm.
Through the ages the Eve of October 31st has become one of our most popular events, especially for the Young. Preparations for 'Fun on the Night', and plans for 'spine chilling activities' start well ahead of time. Shops and Stores display Hallow'een related items weeks before the event, to get you in the mood early. Spooky shaped cookies and traditional recipes for Hallow'een cakes and pies are baked, toffee apples and candy twists are placed in prominent places to tempt you, and piles of golden pumpkins lie waiting to be transformed into grotesque lanterns, to be placed in windows or on doorsteps as a sign the occupants are willing to tolerate visits from 'Trick or Treat' children who run giggling in the dark from house to house to try their luck dressed up in ghostly apparel and shrieking "WWHHOOOOOOOOOO"! to frighten away any evil spirits which may be lurking in the shadows.
Bonfires were lit to ward off the Devil. These days they provide natural ovens for roasting the jacket potatoes that are enjoyed eaten by the glowing embers, while scary stories go round. And eyes widen in horror! Apple Dunking is good fun. Turns are taken to try and bite into an apple which is bobbing about in a bucket of icy water, without using any hands. Almost impossible, but creates much laughter!
Find Motley hiding in a cauldron of apples which await the dunking game, or being made into toffee apples.
Hallow'een is a good excuse for mischief, parties, and the upholding of this old tradition. All very exciting and such FUN, but ... have you ever stopped to think what Hallow'een and its strange activities is like from a cat's point of view? (Best keep them in!) They must think we have taken leave of our senses and find the whole thing a hair raising experience. Just look at Mumu freaking out on the stairs after catching sight of my metal cat lantern (which I could not resist buying in a curio shop in America). Mumu's great niece, little Maisie, is fearlessly trying to attract a Pumpkin Person hoping it will play with her. (Ah, the trust of the youthful!) (Or, is she leaping in fright?)!
In medieval Times black cats were considered bad news, now they are harbingers of Good luck. The leaping white cat prefers to remain anonymous, while Preston invites you to find which pumpkin he is hiding in, very near one extremely lucky mouse. (Must be the lucky influence of all the black cats!)
Domino is the cat appearing to walk across the moon, she is famous for her skills in scaling high places. Gabby is difficult to spot, she is the one cautiously peering round the stairs wondering what is frightening Mumu so much. To obtain a better viewpoint, Mintaka has climbed a broomstick, much to the amazement of a baby Tawny Owl, who thinks it all may make more sense if seen from upside down.
In their own way cats are always tuned into the unusual. They have their own level of understanding the supernatural, especially on nights like Hallow'een, and make themselves pretty scarce until dawn breaks the spell.
Who knows what THEY know that WE do not! Keep an open mind.
Before you light your bonfire (and not just at Hallow'een), please make sure there are no hibernating Hedgehogs under or near it. These much loved, endearing little animals are a declining species and our natural heritage. Once the last one has gone, you cannot make another. Your thoughtful care will help their survival. Every one saved is good news for your garden too. It is a rare delight to see them now. Only a few years ago it was a common sight to encounter them in our gardens, although rarely seen by day as they are nocturnal. Here Malteazer and Blossom share a saucer of food we put out to help this hedgehog find it'd way back to bed. (Photographs taken in the 1980s.)
Enjoy your evening, keep your cats in, they will look after you!