Halloween is almost here! The costumes and parties are being planned and the spooky decorations are going up in neighborhoods across the continent. Aside from the costumes, the candy, and the fun, what do you really know about Halloween? We’ve uncovered a few fascinating facts about our second most popular holiday (after Christmas, of course!).
- Halloween is short for “Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallows’ Evening,” which was the evening before All Hallows’ (sanctified or holy) Day or Hallowmas on November 1. In its ongoing effort to convert pagans, the Catholic Church created the “Hallowmas,” or “All Saint’s Day”, to assimilate sacred pagan events such as Samhain.
- Trick-or-treating has its roots with the ancient Celts, who believed that as we move from one year to the next, the dead would roam the earth again. So dressing up as a ghoul would trick the dead into thinking you were one of them. In the middle ages, this tradition evolved into “souling,” when children would dress up in their costumes around Halloween and go door to door, begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers for the dead.
- The frightening contemporary image of a witch actually came from a kinder and gentler source. The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” These highly respected “wiccans” held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.
- Irish legends tell us that Jack O’Lanterns are named after a man named Jack who tricked the devil several times, resulting in his banishment from both heaven and hell. He was condemned to wander at night, swinging his lantern to lead people astray.
- The first Jack O’Lanterns were not pumpkins at all, but turnips. The ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallows’ Eve, placing a candle or ember in them to repel evil spirits.
- An old Scottish legend said that a girl could see an image of her future husband by looking into a mirror while walking downstairs at midnight on Halloween.
- Cats, especially black ones, have long been associated with Halloween. One reason for this association is due to the ancient druidic practice of throwing cats into a fire during Samhain to divine the future. In the middle ages, it was believed that witches could disguise themselves as black cats. Sadly, many women accused of witchcraft in Europe during this dark time were burned at the stake alongside their cat.
- According to one tradition, you are sure to see a witch if you put your clothes on inside out and walk backwards at midnight on Halloween.
- Both Salem, Massachusetts, and Anoka, Minnesota have declared themselves the Halloween capitals of the world.
- More than half of all children prefer to receive chocolate on Halloween, as opposed to gum and other undesirable non-chocolate candies.
And one final fact: Chances of children being involved in a pedestrian/car accident more than double on Halloween. Please stay safe out there and have a very Happy Halloween!