Halloween as a celebration is second only to Christmas and seems to be enjoyed more by adults as time goes on. While children have always been fond of dressing up in silly, strange or spooky costumes, adults also enjoy this typically American holiday, planning outdoor decorations, hosting parties and setting up Halloween Village displays of all sizes.
“All Hallows Eve” the day before All Saints’ Day on November 1st
It was long said that on the eve of All Saints, the souls of the departed were released and allowed to roam freely throughout the world. Some of these spirits were evil and believers thought that if they disguised their appearances, they would be protected from the harm the evil spirits could cause. Hence, the disguises were the first costumes. Many were scary, hoping to send away the evil spirits.
Everyone knows that when a black cat crosses your path bad luck is sure to follow, but how did this “curse” come to be? Thousands of years ago, cats enjoyed statues in ancient Egypt, but later were the reincarnation of the devil. In fact, Pope Gregory IX declared them evil. Many were put to death and black cats became quite rare. Even today, it is much harder for animal shelters to place black kittens than cats of any other colour.
Another part of the celebration was the lighting of large bonfires as a cleansing ritual. It was thought that evil spirits as well as harmful insects, rodents and bats were also drawn to the fires. This is probably how bats became associated with Halloween. Besides the fires, the ancients also carved turnips and placed lights inside hoping to attract and wipe-out more evils – in the United States pumpkins became an easier vegetable to carve. The faces we carve into the pumpkins were also an effort to scare away evil. Now though, it’s all just good fun!
Halloween originated from an ancient Celtic festival
According to History.com, the Halloween we know today can trace its roots back to the ancient Celtic end-of-harvest festival of Samhain. During Samhain, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off evil spirits.
Jack O' Lantern comes from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack
Legend has it that Stingy Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him, but Jack didn't want to pay for the drink, so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin. Instead of buying the drink, he pocketed the coin and kept it close to a silver cross in his house, preventing the devil from taking shape again.
He promised to let the devil go if 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 leave him alone and not claim his soul. When Jack died, God didn't want such a conniving person in heaven and the devil, true to his word, would not allow him into hell. Jack was banished into the night with only a burning coal to light his path. He placed the coal inside a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since.
People in Ireland and Scotland began creating their own creations of Jack's lanterns out of turnips, beets and potatoes. The tradition travelled to the United States along with the immigrants and people began to use pumpkins, native to North America, for the lanterns instead.
Halloween folklore is full of fortune-telling and magic
Old English folklore about Halloween is full of superstition and fortune-telling that still lingers today, like bobbing for apples or avoiding black cats. One piece of folklore says that if a young unmarried person walks down the stairs backwards at midnight while holding a mirror, the face that appears in the mirror will be their next lover.