Halloween and Related Garden Traditions

You may wonder what Halloween and gardening have in common besides, perhaps, the pumpkins.  There’s a lot more than you think.

Halloween is thought to have its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a traditional festival that signified the end of summer and the end of the seaon of light and the beginning of the season of darkness.  Since until recently we changed the clocks in most parts of the US on Halloween weekend, that seems especially fitting!

To ward off the darkness, and the spirits that many felt might cross the barrier at this time, many carved lanterns out of turnips which were plentiful.  In the “New World,” pumpkins were more plentiful (not to mention being easier to carve!) so they became the halloween tradition that we know as today’s Jack o’ lantern!

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they brought their own traditions with them that paid homage to Pomona, the goddess of plenty.  Part of that ceremony included drinking cider and bobbing for apples–things many of us currently enjoy as fall-related or Halloween party fare!  Little did we know our traditions dated back to the Romans!

Other cultures also have remembrances that have to do with death and the dead at this time of year.  The Mexican Day of the Dead, which is both a memorial and celebration (if I understand it correctly) uses marigolds and other flowers in its remembrance of the ancestors.  I have previously discussed the significance of other flowers, specifically white and yellow mums, in connection with Asian mourning traditions.

The Christian tradition of All Saints and All Souls, while not specifically associated with any gardening traditions, comes from the pagan and the practice of souling, or way of remembering the dead.  It is  from this tradition that the carving of the jack o’lanterns emerged.  Another way was to bake little soul cakes–but that of course has nothing to do with gardening.

And did you ever wonder why they call it a murder of crows?   I’ll cover that in another post–but it is a spooky sort of Halloween thought to leave you with!

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