By Swain Wodening
Halloween is no doubt a Christian holiday being the eve of All Saints Day. But like most Christian holidays it has its pagan origins. It is well known that many Halloween traditions come from Irish traditions thought by some to date back to when the Irish celebrated the pagan holiday of Samhain. What most do not know is that the Germanic peoples were not totally alien to the Irish ideas. Many Halloween traditions we think of as being Irish in origin actually have parallels in Germanic custom as well.
Take trick or treating for example. It is often thought that it has its roots in the Irish going about on All Hallows Eve asking for food or candies. What many do not know is that in Germany there existed a custom called “souling.” People would go around house to house asking for “soul cakes.” In exchange for the cakes, the “soulers” would say prayers for the dead of the givers of the cakes. On Maundy Thursday in Sweden children would go out dressed as witches begging for treats. And in Denmark this took place on the eve of Shrove Monday while children in Norway would do it between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Trick or treating was in no way unfamiliar to the Germanic peoples.