Once fall officially comes and the cooler, crisper air arrives, just about everyone looks forward to the one night when both kids and adults can have fun. Though there are some things to look forward in the month of October, like Oktoberfest, nothing quite jolts excitement from people young and old like Halloween does. For many the month of October is dedicated exclusively to the holiday, with marathons of favorite TV specials and movies, costume parties, fun foods, haunted hay rides and houses, decorating your home, and much more! While not topping the big holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, Halloween is highly favored among most Americans, coming in third in a ranking of the commonly celebrated holidays. Though one of the popular favorites among people in the country, there are many facts about Halloween that the common person, like myself, don’t know!
When the holiday originated and how our traditions developed over time is important to know to fully understand and respect the special day we only celebrate once a year. Do you love everything Halloween? These top five facts about one of our favorite holidays will have you feeling spooked and more appreciative of the awesome traditions we celebrate!
Facts About Halloween – Halloween Originated in Ireland
When we think of Ireland, we think of the beautiful green lands, delicious food, and Saint Patrick’s Day- start thinking of Halloween now, too! That’s right, the origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain all the way back 2,000 years ago! At the time, the Celts inhabited land that is now Ireland, the UK, and northern France and celebrated their new year on November 1st, which would signify the end of the hot summer and beginning of the cold winter.
This time particularly was associated with darkness and death, so the night before the new year on October 31, the Celts celebrated Samhain when they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth. To appease the spirits that were now roaming on Earth, the Celts would dress up in costumes made of animal heads and skins and leave food out on their doors. You can see where a lot of our Halloween traditions have developed from this early Celtic festival, but that’s not the only thing that the Irish did that we use today!
Facts About Halloween – The Jack-O-Latern Comes From an Old Irish Tale
One of the most iconic elements about Halloween and the Halloween season is carving and displaying Jack-O-Laterns. How did this tradition start? It originated from an Irish tale about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack” who invited the Devil to have a drink and then made a few deals with him which ultimately fell through and resulted in broken promises on Jack’s end. In turn, when Jack died, God was not pleased with him and felt he wasn’t fit for heaven, but in the deal Jack made with the Devil, he promised that he would never claim his soul for hell. Thus, Jack was sent back to Earth to roam with a burning coal for light. He put the coal in a turnip as a lantern and Stingy Jack became “Jack of the Latern.”
Facts About Halloween – Trick or Treating Didn’t Start Off Innocently
Today, Trick or Treating means little children dressing up in interesting or cute costumes, going door to door asking for candy. The origins of this tradition didn’t start so innocently, however. In the United States during the 1920s, pranking and tormenting was the popular thing to do on Halloween. According to Reader’s Digest, “When the North American practice of trick-or-treating became popular in the 1920s, disguised youngsters would threaten to pull pranks if they weren’t given candy. An article that appeared in an Alberta newspaper at the time playfully complained about ‘youthful tormenters’ begging for ‘edible plunder.” About 30 years later in the 1950s, trick or treating became more popular and widely practiced on Halloween in America.
Halloween is Different All Around the World
While we are used to Halloween in America, there are several other traditions around the world that celebrate similar themes. For instance, Mexico celebrates Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which honors and remembers friends and loved ones who have died. During the holiday, people dress up, offer food, and dance in the streets. In Hong Kong, one Halloween festival is Yue Lan (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts), “during which fires are lit and food and gifts are offered to placate potentially angry ghosts who might be looking for revenge.”
Candy Corn Was Born in Philly
A place I call very close to home, the city of Philadelphia, is also home to one of the most popular candies of Halloween, candy corn! Oral tradition claims that George Renninger, a candy maker in Philadelphia, invited the iconic candy in sometime in the 1880s. When Goeliz Confectionery Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Co.) first released the candy, it was called “Chicken Feed.”