The spooky season is fast approaching, when we celebrate all things otherworldly. Halloween has evolved from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-win, which roughly translates as ‘summer’s end’), when people believed that the boundaries between the spirit world and the world of the living were at their thinnest.
To ward off the possibility of ghosts returning to haunt them, people would hang carved turnip lanterns in their yards, or dress up in animal skins and light bonfires. It was also a time to celebrate the harvest season, and prepare for the harder and darker days of winter to come.
Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows Eve, which is the day before All Saint’s Day on 1 November. This was a religious day created by Pope Gregory III in the eighth century to honour the saints, and eventually it became amalgamated into the Samhain festival, to create the blend of the spiritual and the spooky that we still celebrate today.
Nowadays, Halloween has lost its overtones of suspicion and fear for most of us, but it still has a strong hold on the popular imagination. The reasons for this are open to interpretation of course, but for some people, it acts as a safety value for our fear of the unknown, death, and change.
Maybe it helps to put a joyful face on the things that unsettle us, or maybe it’s just something to look forward to when the nights are drawing in, and Christmas still feels like a long time away. Whatever the reason, it’s a great excuse to have some fun decorating our homes at this time of year! Here are a few easy ideas if you are in need of some inspiration!
Carve a jack-o’-lantern
OK, this is an obvious one, but it is the classic symbol of the season, found everywhere from Halloween bedding to Twitter emojis. Firstly, take a large fresh pumpkin with no bruises, and a flattish base so that it is easier to carve, and cut off the crown with a sharp knife. Next, scoop out all the seeds and pulp, and some of the flesh.
The next step is to mark out your design for the face with a marker pen. A quick internet search will give you some inspiration, if you are not particularly artistic yourself! You can even cut out a paper pattern and draw around it on your pumpkin, to ensure that your design is in proportion and accurate.
Using a smaller sharp knife, cut out the features of your pumpkin face. Some people find this easier to do when they are holding the pumpkin in their lap, looking down on it. Once you are happy with the face, simply but a lit tealight inside and put on the lid. The scraps are great to throw in a curry, casserole, or chutney, and the seeds can be roasted and eaten.
Dried flower wreaths
Wreaths are the perfect decoration for the season, symbolising the harvest and the end of summer, and also referencing the associations with spirituality and death. If you want to create your own, pick a mixture of dried ferns, flowers, leaves, berries, and twigs.
Choose autumn hues in vibrant rusts, bronzes, and golds, balanced out with darker browns and cream or white. Arrange them in a pleasing wreath shape, to achieve a good balance of tones, shapes, and textures. Next, take a wreath base, and start by weaving in the smaller items, adding the smaller pieces on top.
You can add finishing touches, such as pieces of dried fruit or even some plastic creepy crawlies, with floral wire or glue. The perfect way to brighten up your front door and welcome the trick and treaters!
Make some potion bottles
To add some pops of colour around the house, take empty glass bottles (from spirits, bath products, or used candle jars, for example), and fill them with fake creepy crawlies, mini plastic skulls, or Halloween themed sweets. Any small spooky trinket will do, in fact. Next, pour in a mixture of water, food colouring, and glitter, to create a ghostly glow.
For a twist on the traditional scary face, try painting some smaller pumpkins in natural tones of white, stone, and moss, to make tasteful table decorations.
You could also try alternative carvings, such as the spiderweb design. Instead of cutting off the top, carve a large oval shape into the side of the pumpkin. Hollow out the centre, and spray paint the entire pumpkin, including the inside, black. Next, make a spider web out of string, and glue it over the oval shape, not forgetting to add the spider!