Guess what – there’s more to Hallowe’en than dressing up in a seductive, blood splattered zombie nurse costume or frighteningly handsome Dracula outfit…
Back in the day, it had all together darker connotations and celebrations. From creepy legends to modern-day traditions, Hallowe’en has a lot more going on than just parties and elaborate makeup.
1) Originally, the treats weren’t meant for kids
The history of trick or treating can be traced back to the medieval tradition of ‘souling’, whereby the poor would beg door-to-door for bread and other traditional soul cakes, in exchange for prayers for the dead.
The association between door to door begging and Halloween continued into the 1930s in America, when it was banned in 1933.
2) Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween.
Halloween is believed to have first been celebrated in Ireland, around a thousand years ago, which is why so many Halloween traditions – regardless of where you are in the world – are Irish. Halloween was originally a pagan festival called “Samhain,” meaning “end of summer.” The Celts believed that on the eve of Halloween dead spirits would visit the mortal world. They lit bonfires to keep evil spirits away and dressed in disguises.
3) Why do we carve pumpkins and light them up?
Again thought to originate from Ireland, there are two schools of thought on why the Irish carried Jack-o-lanterns. One is that it is an ancient Celtic tradition – and in order to carry home an ember from the communal Halloween bonfire the people would hollow out a turnip so they could walk home with the fire still burning.
The other version is a little more spooky. The other story is that Jack-o-lanterns date back to the 18th century. It is named after an Irish blacksmith, called Jack, who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry into Heaven. Jack was condemned to walk the earth for eternity but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal which burnt into a turnip that he had hollowed out. Some Irish believe that hanging a lantern in their front window would keep Jack’s wandering soul away.
When the Scot-Irish emigrated to America they adapted the tradition and used a pumpkin instead as it was more difficult to find turnips.
4) The traditional dress is actually animal skulls and sheets
In a move towards the utterly terrifying, in many countries traditional dress includes animal skulls or bags covering the head, and a white sheet covering the body. As this picture proves, this tradition was still popular in America in the 1920s.
5) Legend has it that on Halloween spirits appear in the form of a number of different animals
Most of these revolve around Wiccan mythology, including traditional animals such as black cats and crows, but also owls, mice, and snakes.
6) Bobbing for apples isn’t just about bagging a fruity snack
Originally, bobbing for apples was conceived to predict who would next get married on Halloween. The girl who successfully wrapped her chomps around the fruit was destined to find her soulmate soon after!
7) Hollywood has banned the use of silly string on Halloween
Due to an increase in silly string related vandalism in the 1990s, in 2004 the Californian government banned the use of the party decoration in Hollywood on Halloween. There is now a $1000 fine associated with the act.
8) Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween
Though we’ve no idea why anyone would find Halloween scary…
9) ‘Halloween’, the horror film classic starring Jamie Lee Curtis, was actually made on an extremely low budget
In fact, this 1978 classic was originally turned down by several major studios and eventually was made independently. The infamous Michael Meyers mask was created when the prop people from the film went to a local Halloween store and bought the cheapest mask they could find. The mask turned out to be a Star Trek William Shatner mask. Once spray painted white and with the eye holes appropriately reshaped, a horror character legend was born. ‘Halloween’ was filmed on a less than 300k dollar budget, but to date this film has brought in well over 70 million dollars worldwide.
10) The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.”
In fact, wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.[
11) Why are black and orange are typically associated with Halloween?
Orange is a symbol of strength and endurance and, along with brown and gold, stands for the harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder that Halloween once was a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death.
12) It’s less popular in Britain because of Guy Fawkes night
Because Protestant England did not believe in Catholic saints, the rituals traditionally associated with Hallowmas (or Halloween) became associated with Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes’ Night was designed by the Protestant government in Britain, to take the limelight away from the traditionally Catholic celebration. England declared 5th November Guy Fawkes Night to commemorate the capture and execution of Guy Fawkes, who co-conspired to blow up the Parliament in 1605 in order to restore a Catholic king.
13) Magician Harry Houdini died on Halloween.
A famous magician and sceptic of spiritualism, it’s with some irony that Harry Houdini died on Halloween night in 1926, as a result to three blows to the stomach.
14) Scarecrows, a popular Halloween fixture, symbolise the ancient agricultural roots of the holiday