Everyone loves Halloween – but did you know it has a long history steeped in tradition and rituals? Here are ten things we bet you didn’t know about Halloween!
1. Jack-O-Lanterns Are Named After A Man Named Stingy Jack
Have you ever wondered why people carve pumpkins on Halloween? Or why we call these vegetable crafts “Jack-O-Lanterns”? The answer comes from Irish folklore. According to legend, Stingy Jack was a miserable old drunk who tormented the people of his village by playing pranks on them and causing chaos. One day, Stingy Jack trapped the Devil himself in an apple tree by convincing him to climb the branches and then surrounding the base with crosses. Stingy Jack said he would only remove the crosses and let the Devil back down if he promised not to take Jack’s soul when he died. The Devil agreed.
However, when Jack eventually died, Saint Peter refused to allow him into Heaven due to his cruel ways on Earth and sent him to the gates of Hell. When he got there, the Devil reminded him of the promise he had made and refused to allow him into Hell. Stingy Jack was given an ember to light his way and he placed it inside a turnip. With no afterlife to move on to, Jack was doomed to wander the Earth swinging his turnip lantern for eternity. In Irish legend, placing a light inside root vegetables such as turnips and rutabagas would ward off Jack’s spirit. As for the pumpkins, that came from the Irish immigrants arriving in America and discovering pumpkins are easier to carve than turnips.
2. Bobbing For Apples Is Actually A Form Of Goddess Worship
During the time of the Roman Empire, the Romans decided to combine the Celtic festival of Samhain with two traditional Roman festivals in an attempt to reduce stop turn the Celtic tradition into a Roman one. The two Roman festivals were Feralia, another late October day for commemorating the dead, and the day of Pomona. Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit and trees and her symbol is the apple – which is why people “bob” for apples on Halloween. It is a way to honor her spirit. The original idea was that whoever was first to catch the apple with their mouth would be the next person to get married. Nowadays, it’s simply a way to encourage your kids to eat some fruit at an otherwise sugar-filled time of year.
3. Trick-or-Treating Comes From Celtic Tradition
In the UK, trick-or-treating is known as ‘guising’ – a historic word meaning to dress up or wear a disguise. The origins of the Halloween tradition actually stem from the Celtic festival of Samhain that coincides with Halloween. During the festival, people would put out food to appease the spirits that roamed the streets during the night. Guising comes from this idea with the guisers taking on the role of the spirits and traveling from door to door searching for treats. In Great Britain, this tradition dates back to the 16th century whilst in North America, it was first recorded in 1911 in Ontario.
4. People Used To Use Halloween As A Matchmaking Service
Well… sort of. There are certain Halloween traditions that relate to women trying to find out the identity of their future husband. One involved peeling an apple and throwing the peel either over your shoulder or dropping it into a bucket of water to reveal the initial of your soon-to-be spouse. Another tradition stated that if you stood in a dark room and held a candle up to a mirror, you would see the face of your husband. A variation of this in Scottish tradition was to hang wet sheets in front of an open fire and the silhouette of your lover would appear as they dried. Unsurprisingly, these traditions do not really exist anymore.
5. Seeing A Spider On Halloween Is A Good Thing
According to legend, seeing a spider on Halloween means that a loved one is watching over you. That is part of why spiders appear so often in Halloween media and decorations. That and the fact that they look creepy and scare people. You can’t help but to question why, of all the signs your ancestor could send from beyond the grave, they would choose an eight-legged creepy-crawly.
6. It Is Very Rare To See A Full Moon On Halloween
Due to the way the moon cycles work, it is rare for a full moon to fall on Halloween. It will happen eventually. In fact, there is one scheduled for Halloween 2020 – so keep an eye out next year whilst you are trick-or-treating! The reality though is that, despite the supposed mysticism surrounding the full moon, it is unlikely to see one on Halloween itself.
7. There Are A Lot Of Halloween Themed World Records
A browse through the Guinness Book of World Records reveals that a lot of people see Halloween as a great excuse to do exceptional things, such as carve giant Jack-O-Lanterns and hold massive parties. The largest Jack-O-Lantern ever carved was made by Scott Cully out of a pumpkin weighing 821.23 kg. It is not the heaviest Jack-O-Lantern ever, though. That record lies with the Cosumnes Community Services District who presented a carved pumpkin weighing 942.11 kg to the 24th annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival in Elk Grove, California, the USA on 6 October 2018. Another particularly funny Halloween record was set in 2017 by Mercy School Mounthawk in Ireland who gathered 560 people wearing white sheets together and set the record for the largest gathering of people dressed as ghosts.
8. More Sweets Are Sold On October 28th Than Any Other Day
It’s true! Reports show that supermarkets sell more sweets and confectionery three days before Halloween than any other day of the year. In fact, sweet sale rates in October are actually higher than in December – and Halloween is generating more income than any other holiday except Christmas. People love their Halloween sweets!
9. Some Places Have Laws About Halloween
Halloween is supposed to be a fun day where you can put on a costume and eat sweets – but some places have strict rules about that fun. In Alabama, USA, it is illegal to dress up as a priest. That includes all those tacky store-bought costumes. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, California, there is a $1000 fine for anyone who uses silly string between 12:00am on October 31st to 12:00pm on November 1st. Any other day of the year, it is perfectly okay to use silly string. Do it on Halloween, however, and it will be the most expensive trick-or-treating you have ever done.
10. Pumpkins Are Not Always Orange
Every time you see a Jack-O-Lantern either in real life or on the TV, they are always carved from an orange pumpkin. This is likely because the color orange has always been associated with Halloween. However, pumpkins actually come in a range of colors! They can be grey, white, red, or even green. Recently, white pumpkins have become more popular. Why not try carving a different colored pumpkin this year? It will make your Jack-O-Lantern stand out!