5 Things You Should Know about Halloween
Halloween is upon us and our little witches and mummies are wandering the streets looking for sweet treats. But, do you know how Halloween started or that jack ‘o lantern refers to a “real” person? Many countries throughout the world celebrate a festival around the time of Halloween in the same way – by honoring ancestors or relatives who have passed, lighting fires to lead their way home – or to ward off the evil spirits that roam the earth along with ancestors that night, and by dressing in costumes. Read on for more Halloween history and trivia from around the world.
1) Dressing in costumes at Halloween is Irish!
Actually Celtic, but we’ll claim it for the Irish. It started as a pagan celebration in Ireland to mark the end of the harvest season. The festival was called Samhain. On this night between the end of the growing season and the coming year, it was believed that ghosts would come and haunt and destroy. So, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off evil spirits. The costumes were originally scary and gruesome…often the heads of animals. Meant to be scary to get rid of those unwanted spirits. Although the costumes of today have become a little bit more diverse…from scary to cute.
2) Bobbing for Apples started in Roman Empire
Once the Romans arrived from what would become Italy in Celtic territory in about the 1st century, they incorporated Samhain with several Roman celebrations including one to honor Pomona – Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and bobbing for apples may have originated during this time. Today, the treats distributed at Halloween are a bit sweeter in the form of candy requested door-to-door by neighborhood kids who promise not to play a trick if they receive a treat.
3) Family Ghosts
When Halloween was originally celebrated, it was thought that spirits of ancestors returned and a place was set for them at dinner. Treats were left at doorsteps for these friendly ghosts and candles lit to help them find their way home. In many European and Asian countries, the holiday around this time of year still focuses on ancestors who have passed before us. They leave offerings of fruit and bread for the missing relatives. In Latin countries, they celebrate in much the same fashion for Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. They erect altars in their homes with treats for relatives and have picnics in graveyards to honor the dead.
4) Black Cats = Witches
Black cats didn’t get their bad luck rap until the Middle Ages when people thought that witches turned themselves into black cats to avoid being seen. That is where the superstition of not letting a black cat cross your path comes from.
5) Jack ‘O Lanterns Lit the Way for Stingy Jack
According to an Irish legend, a man named Stingy Jack played a trick on the devil and bargained for the devil not to take his soul. When he died, heaven did not want his type, and the hell could not take him. So, the devil sent Jack wandering the earth with only a burning coal. He placed the coal in a carved out turnip. His ghostly image was called “Jack of Lantern”, which later became Jack ‘O Lantern.