Welsh Halloween Customs

Many people in Wales will be celebrating Halloween (Calan Gaeaf) this year, but how many of us really know about the origins of this unique holiday and some of our Welsh customs and traditions surrounding the day?

Did you know that Halloween (Calan Gaeaf or Samhain in Irish) used to be a Celtic festival to celebrate the end of the summer and the old year?

The new Celtic year would start in November, with the arrival of the winter, the darkest and coldest of seasons. The season of light started on Calan Mai (Mayday) which is celebrated on May 1st today.

The Celts believed that Calan Gaeaf was a day when the door between their world and the next was open, and so it was a day to pay tribute to the dead, and to fear visits from the spirits.

It was a sombre and fearful occasion and masks were worn to ward off bad spirits, rather than for fun as we do today. Like many other Celtic holidays, Calan Gaeaf was adopted by the Christian church, and was recreated as the festival of All Saints on the 1st of November, and All Souls on the 2nd of November, which continue the tradition of remembering the dead.

Want to know more about our Welsh halloween customs? Take a look at these information leaflets produced by the Mentrau Iaith in North East Wales.

Baner Balchder - Calan Gaeaf Spread V1 (2)-page-002

You can download and share these posters and leaflets online or print them out and hand them arround your communities.

Many Mentrau Iaith, across Wales are organising activities to celebrate the holiday, keep your eyes peeled on your local Menter Iaith’s Facebook page and Twitter stream.

You can also use the Activities and Events diary on the Cymraeg website to find similar Welsh medium and bilingual activities in your area.