Trick or Treat?

To some Halloween is nothing more than a big, brash, noisy import from the other side of the Atlantic – a commercial festival that, like the grey squirrel, has come uninvited to our shores and has ambushed our more traditional celebrations.

After all, it is estimated that Americans spend over $6 Billion every October on Halloween costumes, decorations and foods. That is a huge amount of money and more and more is being spent on trick or treating in Britain every year. Yet, while Halloween grows in size and economic strength, Guy Fawkes Night is the red squirrel, in decline, battered by the commercial might of its American cousin.

But, of real interest is the misconception that Halloween is the new kid on the block muscling its way into our affections. Actually, Halloween was here first as part of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. Falling at the very end of October it straddled both autumn and winter, times of plenty and scarcity, signifying life and death itself. It’s the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day and Reformation Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, dedicated to remembering the dead.

Although it’s mostly forgotten today, Guernsey has its own annual commemoration at this time. Celebrated at the beginning of November and often confused with Guy Fawkes Night, Budloe Night harks back to the island’s Viking heritage and was originally intended to celebrate the end of the year. It was a pagan festival where a Yule log would be burnt as an act of cleansing for the New Year. Guernsey’s connection to the Vikings stems from the island’s association with Normandy, conquered and populated by Norsemen, from which the term Norman was derived.

Budloe night was celebrated until after the Occupation with large cavalcades of islanders in fancy dress. Since the war, it has declined and the focus is now a more standardised bonfire and fireworks party.

In Scandinavia, the Vikings didn’t celebrate Halloween, but it’s now a big event in Denmark and Sweden and our PEA team members will be spending time with their families, wearing masks and ‘trick or treating’. Last year in the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the landmark was elaborately decorated with 20,000 pumpkins as well as bales of straw, spiders, scarecrows and lots of magical creatures.

Over the centuries pagan and Christian festivals have merged and their true origins are often blurred. When people settle in other parts of the world they take their beliefs and customs with them, hence the Celtic festival of Halloween crossed the Atlantic to America and from there it conquered the world. The growth of Halloween perfectly illustrates how national identity, tradition and custom is constantly changing in this era of globalization. Fund administrators and other businesses need to be vigilant and constantly observing the changing landscape of ideas, laws and procedures.

At our PEA offices in Denmark, Sweden and Guernsey we work hard to ensure we have the very latest information and technology at our fingertips to advise our clients. Today’s global environment lends itself to a completely different administrative horizon requiring professionals to be informed, reactive, nimble, highly organised and able to deal with complex challenges in a changing world, on a daily basis.

At PEA we celebrate Halloween but we won’t be surprising people with a knock on their door ‘trick or treating’. We don’t like surprises. That’s why we always consult with you clearly about costs in plain English and deliver to your needs, on time, every time. Clients like that, regardless of their culture and their traditions.

James Orrick holds a Masters in Corporate Governance from Bournemouth University, a BSc (Hons) in Accounting and Finance from the University of Essex, is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.

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