Ghosts in the Grottes de Han, Weird Witches in Bellewaerde, Pumpkins in Plopsaland and Scary Pairi Daiza … Plans are underway at the activity parks in Belgium to continue offering families plenty of freaky fun this Halloween. This summer Walibi was recruiting 300 monsters and make-up artists for its upcoming festivities.
There is terror expected in many towns too. At the coast you will find Petrifying Promenades and Parades in La Panne (allevents.in/de%20panne) and Scare Nights (for 14 years+) and the Pumpkin King at Plopsaland (plopsalanddepanne.be).
In Knokke-Heist you can reserve a place at a Harry Potter-style dinner party, where families with children (2 years+) can reserve for an evening of animation, face painting, mini disco and Halloween figures (siska-marie.com/events/halloween/)
Looking inland, in Mons, adults can join a guided tour of the city during MONStre Halloween (visitmons.be).
There are also special Halloween night cinema screenings in and around the Brussels.
Let’s not forget the castles. Some say that Belgium has the highest number in the world per square kilometre* (others say that Wales has the most per km2 in Europe**). At the Citadel of Namur, a theatrical walk allows visitors to discover the fortress and its underground passages in an unusual way (citadelle.namur.be). In Bouillon, you can join an evening tour to see the medieval castle in a different light, literally – by the flame of your torch (chateaufortdebouillon.ellohaweb.com)
For families looking for a frightening forest stroll, last year Adventure Valley in Durbuy tempted brave souls to explore a 2km mysterious forest walk, with a haunted house for the younger adventurers (adventure-valley.be)
If you like pumpkins, you will love the gardens of Grand-Bigard castle transformed into Pumpkin land. This year’s theme is dinosaurs and you will see sculptures decorated with some of the 800 official pumpkin varieties. Also on the menu, really, are pumpkin soup, fries, spaghetti and other tastings. Weekend activities include pumpkin carving, boat races, weigh-offs and dissections. (pumpkimania.be/en)
If you and your children simply want to be enchanted, there are several light shows around.
‘Lanterna Magica’ is a 2km walk with sound and light effects that awaits you at the Chateau de la Hulpe. Young and old will enjoy discovering the Solvay regional park transformed by 1,200 projectors and 20,000 LED lights (lanternamagica.be).
“The Big Shine” is a magical light show within the Rivierenhof provincial domain, Antwerp (degroteschijn.be).
Closer to home, the BCT “Trunk or Treat” event, playgroups and group parties at the Clubhouse allow children (and their parents!) to dress up in their favourite costumes and play games. We will also share with you some crafts, games and a Halloween Scavenger Hunt to do in your neighbourhood with your family and/or friends. Look out for the link in the This Week at the BCT! newsletter.
Sources : sosoir.lesoir.be, Lavenir.net
* focusonbelgium.be ** www.nationalgeographic.fr
The Origins of Halloween
The forerunner of Halloween is the pagan festival of Samhain, celebrated by Celts in ancient Ireland and Britain, to mark the transition from summer to autumn and the start of the new year. In the 8th century, 1st November became the Catholic Church’s celebration of All Saints’ Day, with 31st October becoming All Hallows’ Eve (and later Halloween).
The belief was that during Samhain the souls of those who had died that year travelled to the otherworld and that other souls would return to visit their homes.
From the Samhain tradition of wearing masks and disguises to avoid being recognised by the ghosts visiting your home on the Eve of All Saints’ Day.
Why black cats ?
The tradition of black cats and death goes back to ancient Egyptian times. Cats’ eyes reflecting light were associated with the power of the god Ra, who travelled the underworld at night to be born again every morning.
In the 13th century, cats were seen as the evil companions of witches, the reincarnation of the devil as lone old women. Some people believed that a witch could be reborn as a cat as many as nine times, hence the expression of cats having nine lives.
People in Ireland made Jack-o’-lanterns – turnips carved with demonic faces – to scare away Jack’s wandering soul. Jack was an unpleasant character from an old Irish myth, whom the devil refused entry into hell and forced to roam for all eternity with a piece of coal in a turnip to light his way. When Irish immigrants moved to the USA, they started to carve jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins, which grew locally.
Sources: sosoir.lesoir.be, britannica.com