Halloween-Like Traditions And The Origin Of Halloween

Halloween-Like Traditions And The Origin Of Halloween

Despite its pagan roots, Halloween, which has become a secular tradition today, is celebrated on October 31st every year.

Halloween-Like Traditions And The Origin Of Halloween

The origin of the Halloween goes back to Ancient Celts’ Samhain, which symbolizes the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Samhain is one of the four important festivals in the Ancient Celtic faith. Every year on October 31st, on the night of Samhain, the boundary between the dead and the living is lifted. People wear costumes to hide from evil spirits, offering them food like pumpkins or corn. People carve pumpkins with scary faces. But, in the past, carved lanterns from turnips were used as a scary face. 1

Many communities practice Samhain-like traditions with the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter.

Bocuk Night

Bocuk Night is an old Balkan tradition. It is usually celebrated on January 6, which is considered the coldest day of winter. People paint their faces, make fires and cook a pumpkin dessert called kabaktatlısı to protect them from the evil creature called Bocuk.

In Turkey, Bocuk Night is celebrated in Tekirdağ and Edirne today. In order for Bocuk not to harm the animals, some pumpkin deserts are left in the barn.

Bocuk Night, Edirne, Turkey

In Bocuk Night, people make predictions about the future. The freezing of the puddles due to the cold weather is considered a sign that the year will be fruitful. 2

Karakoncolos Night

Circassian origin Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote in his book “Seyahatname” that Circassian evil creatures and Abazin evil creatures fought in the sky on a day called Karakoncolos Night in a village in Bulgaria.

Evliya Çelebi wrote that lightnings illuminated the whole place, and organs fell from the sky as a result of the fight. He noted that it was one of the most interesting things he had seen that night.

Kukeri Festival

In the Kukeri Festivals held in the last days of winter in Bulgaria, people try to expel the evil spirits left over from the winter with the sound of bells. The Rijeka Carnival in Croatia, the Kurentovanje Carnival in Slovenia, and the Busójárás Carnival in Hungary include similar practices.

Kukeri from Bulgaria

Supernatural creatures like karakoncolos are present in Balkan, Caucasian and Anatolian folk tales today.

Kalandar Night

Around Trabzon, Giresun and Gümüşhane in Turkey, January 14 is known as Kalandar Day. It was considered the first day of the new year, in the past. On Kalandar Night, young people paint their faces and play games. Children read funny poems to neighbors and collect food such as candy and fruit. Sometimes, young people disguise as karakoncolos and ring the bells. 3

Coraz Nights

In some villages of İzmir, January 18-20 is known as Coraz Days. Coraz is often depicted as a crone witch. It is said that Coraz wanders around these days to harm little girls. For this reason, girls are not asked to go out alone on Coraz Nights. Care is taken to cook pumpkin dishes at home. However, this tradition is rare today. 4

Practices such as offering food to evil creatures, collecting snacks or face painting, wearing masks, disguises are similar traditions at both Halloween, Bocuk Night, and Kalandar Night festivities. On the other hand, Coraz Night in İzmir are similar to Bocuk Night in terms of cooking pumpkin.

Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night is celebrated on the night of April 30. It is also mentioned in Goethe’s Faust. All the witches on earth come together on the night of April 30.

Today, Wapurgis Night is mostly celebrated around Central Europe, the Baltic countries, and Scandinavia. People have fun around a big bonfire until the morning of May 1. 5

In some villages around Trabzon, the period from the evening of May 13 to the morning of May 14 is known as the Night of the Witches. According to folk tales, that night is the witches’ wildest night. Witches may enter houses disguised as spiders and try to strangle babies and calves, or enter fields disguised as frogs and damage crops. To prevent this, traps are placed on the chimneys of the houses and the branches of the trees.

Day Of The Dead

The Day of the Dead, which is thought to date back to the Aztecs, is mostly celebrated in Mexico on November 2. In this tradition, people often commemorate their deceased relatives by painting their faces like skeletons. But face painting on the Day of the Dead isn’t meant to be scary, skeletons represent the dead. The purpose of the festival is to commemorate the dead, because we know that people are never dead until they are forgotten.

  1. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Nicholas ROGERS, ISBN: 9780195168969^
  2. Türk Kültüründe Bir Miras Olarak Bocuk Gecesi Ritüeli İçeriği: Fenomenolojik Bir Araştırma (Ritual Content of Bocuk Night As a Heritage In Turkish Culture: A Phenomenological Research), Özlem GÜZEL & Hande AKYURT KURNAZ, Millî Folklor, 2020^
  3. Anadolu Ve Kafkasya Kavşağında Geleneksel Bir Yılbaşı Kutlaması: Kalandar (A Traditional New Year Celebration At The Anatolian-Caucasian Crossroad: Kalandar), Okan ALAY, Motif Akademi Halkbilimi Dergisi, Cilt: 11, Sayı: 23, 2018^
  4. Tire Peşrefli’de Coraz Geceleri, Hasan DOĞAN & İbrahim FİDANOĞLU, Milliyet, 17 Ocak 2013^
  5. They Do What?: A Cultural Encyclopedia of Extraordinary and Exotic Customs from Around the World, Javier A. GALVÁN, ISBN: 9781610693424^