Allantide and Apples: Halloween in Cornwall


Allantide is Cornwall’s unique take on Halloween, blending spiritual traditions with harvest celebrations, writes CHRISTINE MILLER

Allantide in Cornwall

Allantide, likely named after the Feast of Saint Allan, is a Cornish festival that sets itself apart from Halloween, although both do share certain origins and traditions.

This festival, celebrated in late October and early November, carries profound cultural, spiritual, and historical significance, and even bridges the gap between the living and the dead.

The Season of Spirits (and Apples)

The 31st October has always held a special place in various cultural and religious belief systems. Ancient Celts celebrated Samhain during this time, believing that the boundaries between the living and the dead blurred. This idea even influenced some aspects of modern Halloween traditions.

Cornish superstitions and traditions, however, attribute significant spiritual importance to Allantide. In the past, seeking guidance from fortune tellers was common during this festival because it was believed that the physical and spiritual realms were so closely connected. One example involves liquid metal being cast into cold water to predict a future spouse’s occupation based on the metal’s shape, creating an intriguing divination practice. 

Other fortune-telling rituals popular over the centuries during Allantide included tying a front door key between the pages of The Bible. The Bible was believed to endow it with mystical properties and would even begin to twirl when a future suitor’s name was mentioned.

As Allantide aligns with the harvest season, apples played a prominent role in years gone by, too. Cornish towns would often set up Allan Markets, selling large red apples, called: yes, you guesed it, Allan apples.

These apples became central to Allantide traditions, with some people using them for good luck or romance. Teenage girls used to tuck an Allan apple beneath their pillows with the hope of encountering a glimpse of their future romantic lover in their dreams.

Historical records reveal a peculiar game associated with Allantide celebrations. This game involved the assembly of two wooden planks into a cross shape, suspending it from the ceiling, and attaching a candle to each of its ends. Below this wooden cross, Allan apples were suspended. The objective of the game was to catch the apples in one’s mouth without getting dripped on by the hot wax. It’s safe to say that such a game is unlikely to find many participants in today’s times.

What we now refer to as ‘jack-o’-lanterns‘ were also popular. In the tradition of Cornwall, however, a jack-o’-lantern was crafted not from a pumpkin but from one of the plentiful locally sourced turnips.

Walnuts were often cast into a roaring fire as a means of attempting to discern the fidelity of one’s partner. Additionally, some individuals sought to predict their future husband’s occupation through a ritual involving pouring molten lead into cold water and interpreting the resulting shapes.

The Decline and Revival of Allantide

Allantide’s prominence started to wane in the early 20th century, partly due to the influence of American Halloween traditions, which quickly began to gain popularity in the United Kingdom. Halloween, with its emphasis on costumes and spooky themes, overshadowed Allantide’s more traditional celebrations.

However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Allantide. Cornwall’s rich cultural heritage has experienced a revival, and there is a renewed appreciation for the region’s unique traditions and folklore. Local organisations and individuals are working to keep Allantide alive by hosting festivals, workshops, and events that celebrate Cornish culture across the county.

The Significance of Allantide Today

Allantide holds a special place in the hearts of many Cornish people; it represents a connection to their heritage and a celebration of their unique identity.

Allantide’s focus on community, gratitude for the harvest, the thinning of the veil, and the simple joys of sharing food and spooky festivities with loved ones can resonate with all of us interested in folklore, tradition, and the paranormal.

Do you celebrate Allantide in Cornwall? Tell us about it in the comments section below!


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