Sunday, October 30, 2016

12 Things You May Not Know About Halloween

Halloween. Odds are, you think of it as one of the best holidays of the year. If you really stop to think about Halloween and all the bizarre traditions that go along with this beloved holiday, however, you may start to actually wonder… where in the world did all these crazy traditions come from? Costumes, monsters, trick or treating, jack-o-lanterns… well, all this batty stuff had to start somewhere, right? Here are 12 things about Halloween that you may not know!

1. Ireland Is Believed To Be The Birthplace of Halloween.


The ancient Celtic Festival called Samhain was first celebrated more than 2,000 years ago in County Meath. The Celts believed it was a time of transition, when the veil between this world and the next came down, and the spirits of all who had died that year moved on to the next life. But if the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped, the deceased could come back to life and wreak havoc among the living. Not a good thing.

Today the ancient past and the twenty-first century come together at the annual Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival, where a re-enactment of the Celtic celebration kicks off with a torchlit procession through town. The Irish welcome Halloween with bonfires, party games and traditional food, including a fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, rings and other fortunetelling objects. In ancient times, it was believed that if a young woman found a ring in her slice, she’d be married within the next year.


2. People Wore Masks So Ghosts Couldn’t Recognize Them.


Back in the day, the Celts worried about bumping into the ghosts they believed came back to the earth on Halloween. To avoid being recognized, people would don masks when they left their homes after dark in hopes the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. These days folks are willing to spend a bundle in their attempts to be mistaken for pop culture icons and internet memes.


3. Jack-o’-Lanterns Were Once Made Out of Turnips, Beets and Potatoes — Not Pumpkins.


The jack-o’-lantern comes from an old Irish tale about a man named Stingy Jack. According to folklore, Stingy Jack was out getting sloshed with the Devil when Jack convinced his drinking partner to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks without spending money. Jack then put the Devil, shaped like a coin, into his pocket, which also contained a silver cross that kept the Devil from transforming back. Jack promised to free the Devil as long as the Devil wouldn’t bother him for a year, and if he died, the Devil could never claim his soul. Jack tricked the Devil again later, getting him to pick a piece of fruit out of a tree and then carving a cross into the bark when the Devil was in the branches. This trick bought Jack another 10 years of devil-free living.

When Jack finally died, God decided he wasn’t fit for heaven, but the Devil had promised never to claim his soul for hell. So Jack was sent off to roam Earth with only a burning coal for light. He put the coal into a turnip as a lantern, and Stingy Jack became “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack o’ Lantern.” Based on this myth, the Irish carved scary faces into turnips, beets and potatoes to scare away Stingy Jack or any other spirits of the night.


4. While Pumpkins Are Typically Orange, They Can Also Be Green, White, Red, Yellow, Even Tan.


Pumpkins are orange... everybody knows that. But they come in lots of other colors too. You can find pumpkins that are green, white, red, yellow, blue, even tan.

Most pumpkins are orange because of the high amounts of lutein, alpha- and beta- carotene. But don’t assume the absence of orange in the skin means the absence of one or more of these substances – almost all pumpkins have some variation of orange flesh which is rich in Vitamin A and lots of other vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy antioxidants.


5. Trick or Treating Was Put On Hold During WWII.


Trick or treating has been part of Halloween festivities since the early 20th century but like so many aspects of this holiday, it evolved from an ancient European custom. On All Souls Day, poor people would visit the houses of their wealthier neighbors for a "soul cake" — a form of shortbread — in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Known as “souling,” the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food and money. Irish and Scottish communities in the US revived the tradition, although it was put on hold for several years during WW II due to sugar rationing.


6. Candy, Candy, and More Candy.


Trick or treat candy is a hugely important part of Halloween celebrating. October 28th is the day of the year that has the highest number of candy sales, which can obviously be attributed to getting ready for Halloween celebrating. Any guesses as to what the most popular variety of trick or treat candy might be? Apparently, you can never go wrong with Snickers.


7. Being Scared Can Actually Feel Really, Really, Good.


During the Halloween season, more than any other time of the year, normal everyday folks across the country will try to scare themselves on purpose. Horror movies and haunted attractions will pop up in local communities and folks will flock to attend these events with great excitement. The truth is that scientific evidence has shown that for some folks, getting scared in a safe environment can be not only pleasurable, but also pretty darn euphoric.


8. The Timing Is Important.


The name Halloween is a contraction of All Hallow’s Evening, also known as the night before All Saints Day (“hallow” is the Old English word for saint). Christians around the world have marked the Triduum of All Hallows since the 8th century AD. The three-day observation includes All Hallows' Eve (Hallowe'en), All Saints' Day (All Hallows') and All Soul's Day, and lasts from October 31 to November 2. It is a time to remember the dead, including martyrs and saints.


9. Apple Bobbing Originated in Britain.


In Britain most Halloween traditions died out with the rise of Puritanism in the 16th and 17th centuries, but games such as apple bobbing, in which apples floating in a bowl of water are caught in the mouth, are remnants of past rituals. When thrown over the left shoulder, the apple's peel would fall into a shape resembling the initials of a true lover.


10. The Owl Is a Popular Halloween Image.


In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl's call meant someone was about to die.


11. Halloween Is the Second Highest Grossing Commercial Holiday After Christmas.


Halloween has become one of the most expensive holidays for Americans. It ranks just after Christmas for money expenditures, with American spending about $6 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) every year. This includes the costumes, decorations, and fun fall attractions.


12. Want to see a real witch at midnight?


According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and then walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.

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