For parents, Halloween is about wondering if you have enough candy to dole out, how to feed your kids quickly and prepping for impending argument about layering under costumes.
But, here’s some stuff that goes a little deeper than dressing as Paw Patrol and mowing on free candy.
1. Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the world dating back over to 5th century BC, to the Celtic celebration of the dead. A Celtic festival was held on November 1, the first day of the Celtic New Year. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en).
2. When Christianity spread in to Europe, November 1 became All Saints Day, a day dedicated to all the saints that didn’t have a special day of their own. A special mass on Nov 1st was called “All hallows Mass”. The evening before became known as, “All Hallows E’ene” eventually Hallowe’en then finally, Halloween.
3. The tradition of wearing masks on Halloween came from the Celtic tradition that believed that the dead visited the living on October 31st and masks were intended to keep the spirits from recognizing the living!
4. Halloween is the second most successful commercial holiday after Christmas.
5. Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
6. The act of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century Christian European custom called “souling”. On November 1st, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.
7. Yes, we all know that Jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland and were hollowed out turnips with candles placed in them to keep spirits away on that holiday.
8. BUT did you know that the Jack-o-lantern custom is thought to come from Irish folklore? As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness.
9. The witch is a central symbol of Halloween and is identified with the holiday throughout the history of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wicca, meaning ‘wise one’. When setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier. Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams.
10. Lastly, remember that 70s horror movie Halloween (1978)? Well, it was produced on such a tight budget, that they had to use the cheapest mask they could find for the character Michael Meyers. The mask used in the film turned out to be a William Shatner Star Trek mask. Rumour has it that Shatner initially didn’t know the mask was in his likeness, but when he found out years later, he said he was honoured!
There you have it, folks! Some useless but interesting facts to ponder as you walk down the street with the kids on the 31st or as you hand out candy to the multitude of ghosts, goblins and witches that come to the door that night!