Calan Gaeaf is celebrated on November 1 each year in Wales, U.K., to welcome winter. However, this is not a regular old celebration of the cold months. Calan Gaeaf is sometimes also known as the ‘Mother of Halloween!’ And indeed, the celebrations tend to get a little spooky. With days becoming short and nights becoming long and chilly, Calan Gaeaf also celebrates the macabre and creatures of the other world. The holiday is especially loved by children who dress up in costumes and carve pumpkins. Calan Gaeaf is a rather unusual celebration that emphasizes ghouls, ghosts, death, and the afterlife.
History of Calan Gaeaf
Calan Gaeaf is often believed to be the predecessor of the U.S. festival of Halloween. Celebrated at the very beginning of winter, Calan Gaeaf was a way of getting people ready to prepare for short and cheerless days ahead. The longer nights and cool air turned out to be the perfect setting for a spooky festival. The night before Calan Gaeaf is known as ‘Nos Galan Gaeaf,’ where spirits are abroad and yet to visit people. On the night before, people stay away from churchyards, stiles, and crossroads to avoid running into spirits.
Like festivals that have to do with spirits and ghosts, Calan Gaeaf is also deeply rooted in superstitions. In the early practice of the festival, villagers would dance around a bonfire and everyone would write their names and carve a mark on rocks. These rocks were later placed in the fire. When the fire died out, the villagers would all run home, thinking that if they stayed, ‘Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta’’ (a spirit in the shape of a tailless black sow with a headless woman) or ‘Y Ladi Wen’ (a headless ghost apparition) would chase them and devour their souls.
The next morning, the villagers would return to see if the rocks still contained their mark. If the mark was wiped clean, it was considered good luck. If, however, a stone was missing, the person to whom it originally belonged was believed to be cursed with bad luck that would result in them dying within a year!
Calan Gaeaf timeline
The Greeks write about ghosts as scary creatures.
Plutarch describes a bathhouse haunted by the spirit of a murdered man.
Many Americans believe spirits are part of religion.
John Ferriar believes spirits can be sighted during hallucinations.
Calan Gaeaf FAQs
What do people do on Calan Gaeaf?
People party, tell each other spooky stories, dress up in costumes, and light bonfires to celebrate Calan Gaeaf.
What kind of festival is Calan Gaeaf?
Calan Gaeaf is an old Celtic festival that announces the arrival of winter in Wales, U.K.
Did Halloween originate in Wales?
Halloween, which dates back to 1745, is thought to be linked to the Celtic festival ‘Samhain’, and the Brittonic Celtic festival, Calan Gaeaf, in Wales.
Calan Gaeaf Activities
Host your own Calan Gaeaf
Host your own Calan Gaeaf by inviting friends and family over. Dress up in costumes, light a bonfire, and share spooky stories. This is a great way to celebrate the festival.
Watch your favorite horror movies
Another way to celebrate Calan Gaeaf is by spending the night watching the goriest horror movies. A good scare is the best way to celebrate the day and what better way to do it than with horror movies!
Visit a haunted house
Celebrate Calan Gaeaf in style by visiting a haunted house! Nothing can top true ghost stories and rumors of haunted houses. Visit one with your friends to see if the spirits actually speak to you!
5 Scary Facts About Horror Movies To Watch On Calan Gaeaf
Drew Barrymore was initially offered the lead role, Sidney, but turned it down as she figured the audience will be more intrigued if she died earlier in the movie.
“Friday the 13th”
An actual scout camp in New Jersey was used in the making of this film — Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco.
The director was so terrified of the movie that he had to pause screening a copy and watch it the next day — when it was bright!
“A Nightmare on Elm Street”
The interior and exterior shots of the main house in this movie were from a few different locations.
Because this movie was low budget, the producers needed to be extra creative to attract great profits — they even used real pig guts to portray a person’s intestines (freaky)!
Why We Love Calan Gaeaf
It welcomes winter
Calan Gaeaf is a celebration that welcomes winter. With winter comes Christmas and other holidays, so in a way, Calan Gaeaf also signals the beginning of the joyful festive season.
It's an age-old tradition
Calan Gaeaf is an age-old tradition celebrating the changing of the seasons. Celebrations such as this connect us to our ancestors and the rich history of the land. When we celebrate Calan Gaeaf, we also celebrate our culture.
Time to party
With dancing, costumes, and bonfires, Calan Gaeaf is a great time to party. Unwind after the summers and get ready for the festivities of winter with Calan Gaeaf!
Calan Gaeaf dates