Ding Dong…..Trick or treat! Get ready to get the doorbell. That scary time of year is here again, and children of all ages are dressed in costumes, with hands out ready for candy. But have you ever thought of where the tradition and customs came from surrounding this holiday?
“Halloween” is short for “Hallows Eve” which was the evening before “All Hallows Day” (Holy) on November 1st. In an effort to convert Pagans, the Christian church decided that Hallows or All Saint’s Day (November 1) and All Soul’s Day (November 2) should assimilate sacred Pagan holidays that fell on or around October 31st.
Black and orange are typically associated with Halloween. Orange is a symbol of strength and endurance. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder that Halloween was once a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death.
Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween. According to Irish legend, Jack O’Lanterns are named after a stingy man named Jack who, because he tricked the devil several times, was forbidden entrance into both heaven and hell. He was condemned to wander the Earth, waving his lantern to lead people away from their paths.
Two of the most common symbols of Halloween are witches and black cats. The word “Witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night. Black cats are believed to have special powers thus making them a symbol of Halloween.
Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to pacify the spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year. Dressing up as ghouls and ghosts originates from the Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits, they believed that disguising themselves would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets.
Harry Houdini was one of the most famous magicians who ever lived. He died in 1926 on Halloween night as a result of appendicitis brought on by three stomach punches. Before his death Houdini told his wife to visit mediums and attend séances on Halloween as a way to communicate with her. Some believe the veil between the living and the departed are at the thinnest on Halloween making this the best time to communicate with the dead.
Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. An intense and persistent fear of Halloween is called Samhnainophobia. One final superstition, it is believed that wearing your clothes inside out and walking backwards on Halloween you would see a witch at midnight. Who is daring enough to try? Happy Trick or Treating!