Why are bats associated with Halloween?

Why are bats associated with Halloween?

© Tom Marshall

Bats are often associated with Halloween, but if you are curious like me, you may wonder why this is. Let’s dive in…

Bats seem to fascinate us at any time and around Halloween they become almost ubiquitous. But what is the connection between these flying mammals and the Halloween celebration?

There are many theories, but there are also many reasons why bats are perceived as spooky - partly due to their characteristics, like being nocturnal or the way they hang upside down.

The Samhain festival

For one of the theories, we need to go back around 2000 years when Great Britain and Ireland were occupied by a group of people commonly referred to as The Celts.

The Celtic people celebrated a festival called Samhain (“SAH-win”) on the 31st of October. This festival is one of the predecessors of Halloween, so kind of like Halloween’s grandad! During this festival, the Celts believed that the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, and this could allow spirits to cross into our world.

The festival would involve huge bonfires, lots of food and costumes. The costumes were believed to help ward against the fairies and spirits kidnapping them.

The bonfires would attract vast numbers of flying insects, all attracted by the light, encouraging the bats who would make the most of this all-you-can-eat buffet to fatten themselves up for the coming winter!

The erratic swooping of the bats hunting made the celts believe that the bats were spirits up to mischief.

 

A comic strip showing the association of bats with the Celtic Samhain festival

© Ashley Greening

The novel Dracula

When thinking of bats, we often think of vampires. This is due mainly to the famous book Dracula by Bram Stoker In this renowned depiction of vampires, these bloodsucking undead turn into bats. This has caused many to believe that all bats suck blood when in fact, of around 1,500 species of bats around the world, we believe only three species suck blood - and they tend to prefer birds and goats over human blood.

Bats in the UK

But not to worry, all 17 breeding bat species in the UK are insectivores. Bats are an essential part of the ecosystem. If you want to learn more about bats, why not check out our blog, The Bat Flies -> https://www.surreywildlifetrust.org/blog/marcus-wehrle/bat-flies

 

Sources:

https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/10/8630665/bats-halloween-symbol-origin
https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/2019/10/bats-and-halloween/
https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain