10 facts that might surprise you about Halloween
Spooky season has crept up on us once again so it’s time to get your scary costumes to the ready and sweets by the door for trick or treaters. As we get excited for the holiday, here’s 10 facts you might not know about Halloween and that you can use to impress your friends and family.
1. Halloween originates from Celtic Ireland
Halloween dates back to Celtic Ireland and is believed to be over 2000 years old. Once named Samhain, Halloween fell at the end of the Celtic year as the calendar ran from 1st November and so was celebrated as All Hollows Eve (their version of New Year’s Eve). It was believed that in the transition between the years the human and spirit worlds would become less secure and spirits that died recently would rise again on that night to roam. This is also where the first Halloween costumes came about as Celts would dress up on this night to blend with the spirits.
2. Stingy Jack is the origin of Pumpkins as we know them today
Traditional Irish stories also brought about other popular Halloween practices including carved pumpkins (or Jack-o’-lanterns).
The story of Stingy Jack tells of an Irishman who invited the devil to drink with him. To avoid paying for his drink, Jack convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin. But it was a trick. Jack kept the coin and stored it with a silver cross in his house to stop the devil from taking shape again. Jack promised to let the devil go provided he would leave Jack alone for a year and that if Jack died, the devil wouldn’t claim his soul. After a year Jack tricked the devil again to not claim his soul. When Jack died, God didn’t want such a conniving person in heaven and the devil, as promised, didn’t let Jack into hell. Jack was sent into the night with only a burning coal to guide his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since.
Over the years people would pay homage to this folk tale by carving out their own versions of Jack’s lanterns from turnips, beets and potatoes. As the tradition travelled to the United States, people began using native pumpkins as lanterns which are now the preferred option across the world.
3. With a closer look you may recognise mask from the movie Halloween
The mask Michael Myres wears in the blockbuster movie, Halloween, stemmed from an innocent Halloween costume bought in a shop in Hollywood boulevard. When shooting the original 1978 film, two masks were purchased by the production designer Tommy Lee. One was a clown mask and the other was a mask of William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Finding the Kirk mask to be the ideal chilling candidate (likely to the dismay of Shatner if he found out) the mask was spray painted white, eye holes cut bigger and the rest is history.
4. Popular costumers are not that surprising
According to the National Retail Federation, in 2019 the most popular kids’ costumes in the US were Princesses and Superheroes. The most popular for adults was a witch and the most popular for dogs (as chosen by their doting owners) was pumpkins.
5. Orange is the new black
Orange and black are the two colours commonly associated with Halloween. It is thought this is the case because Orange represents the harvest, which Halloween falls at the end of, and black is associated with death.
6. Protecting Black Cats
Prior to the stricter screening processes that now take place for animal adoptions, some animal shelters would suspend black cat adoptions around Halloween. This was out of fear that the animals would be in danger from satanic cults for nefarious purposes.
7. A pause on trick or treating
During the sugar rationing of World War 2, trick or treating began to die out. This was because sugar was a rarity and so, in turn, were sweets. It also wasn’t exactly advisable for children to be out and about the streets in the height of the war without just cause. Luckily, it came back with a vengeance after the war was up and became the sugar filled tradition we know it as today.
8. 8 Legged friends
It is said that spirits come back on Halloween night in the form of a spider so if you see a spider this weekend it may be a friend or family member from the past coming back to watch over you.
9. Dia De Los Muertos
The Day of the Dead (or dia de los Muertos) which is celebrated in Mexico, is often compared to Halloween. However, the day of the dead is not a scary celebration where returning spirits are feared, rather a celebration of life and a festival to honour those who have died in the past year.
Trick or treating is derived from the custom of ‘Souling’ where during Samhain (see fact 1), children from poor families would walk door to door and beg for food and money. In exchange for the generosity of those who put up an offering, the children would pray for souls of any close to the contributor who had recently passed.
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