It’s that time of year again — Halloween! But before you tear the wrappers off your “fun size” Milky Way bars, here are a few things you didn’t know about the spooky season.
Halloween celebrates the Christian holiday of All Hallows Eve. But the Christian holiday is likely rooted in the Celtic holiday, Samhein, or a number of other pre-Christian harvest festivals.
Black and orange are typically associated with Halloween: orange, along with brown and gold, stands for the harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and reminds us that Halloween was once a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death.
In Great Britain, Jack-O-Lanterns are traditionally made from turnips. The Halloween custom came to American through Irish immigrants, and since turnips weren’t cheap state-side, Americans used pumpkins. Today, pumpkins are used worldwide, to the disappointment of turnip farmers everywhere.
The Jack-O-Lantern tradition comes from another Celtic tale. Jack tricked the Devil into paying for his drink, so the Devil gave Jack a hellish ember. But crafty Jack placed the ember safely into a turnip, which he carved and carried with him so as to scare away any future hellish encounters.
According to legend, if you see a spider on Halloween it’s actually the spirit of a loved one watching over you.
Trick or Treating has a short history. In 19th century Scotland and Ireland, there is some record of children travelling door-to-door praying for souls or performing for money or cakes on All Hallows Eve. However, the tradition is a short step from the medieval practice of souling, in which beggars went door to door on October 31 to pray for souls in return for food.
A 1951 Peanuts comic strip can be credited with the popular spread of trick or treating as we know it nationwide. So dress up as Snoopy if you want to be historically accurate.
Oh, and sweet makers are pretty happy about that. Halloween is a £6 billion industry.
But with or without sweets, everyone loves a Halloween party. Traditionally, a Halloween Cake was baked with a thimble inside. Whoever got the thimble in their slice was to be unfortunate in love for the next year.
Lastly, be safe out there. Statistically, the biggest danger on Halloween is alcohol poisoning. There are no reported incidents of witches and ghosts causing havoc on Halloween night…but remember, keep safe.