Halloween is my favorite time of year, and it’s fast approaching. It will be a time to look out for ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. A time for kids, big and small, to dress up and go trick or treating and parties. A time for watching classic horror films, tell ghost stories and just to scare the heck out of each other, and ourselves.
But where do all these traditions come from? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Halloween originated from Paganism:
‘In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic festival of Samhain was observed on October 31, at the end of summer….The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.’
Everyone from around the world have their own strange Halloween traditions, and there’s no end of urban myths designed to scare the pants off you or send chills down your spine. I have put together a list of such tales.
1) Dressing Up.
Wearing a Halloween mask is fun for kids of all ages, but this tradition dates back many centuries ago, and was actually adopted by the Pagans. It was used at the Celtic festival of Samhain which celebrated the end of the summer and the beginning of the cold, dark winter. The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the next became thin enough to let the spirits of the dead through to the world of the living and wreak havoc. To keep the evil spirits from entering their homes, the Celts would trick the spirits by dressing in costumes and wearing masks to hide their identities. They believed this would scare the evil entities away.
2) The original Jack o’ lantern
Ok, so this fact will probably shock you, the British tradition of carving a scary face into a vegetable was originally done with turnips. Yup, you read it right, turnips. The Irish immigrants took the idea of the Jack O’lantern to America, and started using pumpkins because they were cheaper than turnips. The inspiration of the carvings came from the legend of Stingy Jack. It is said he trapped the Devil, only letting hi go on the condition that Jack would never go to hell. When Jack died, he soon discovered Heaven was out of the question due to his devilish dealings, so was condemned to walk the earth as a ghost for all eternity. The Devil gave Jack a lump of burning coal which he carried around in a carved out turnip to light his way.
3) Halloween Cake.
Baking a Halloween cake was part of Colonial America’ tradition. Bakers would hide various things in the cake which would help to predict the future. Finding a thimble was apparently a sign of bad luck, I would say it would be a costly visit to the dentist.
4) Punki Night
Hinton St George and Lopen, Somerset, UK, have their own spin on Halloween. History states the children would march around with Jack o’lanterns, or punkies, begging for candles and money, if they did not cough up, the people would be threatened. What makes this a sinister story, is the fact that this band of marauding youngsters were led by a King and Queen, and they would sing a song:
“It’s Punkie night tonight, It’s Punkie night tonight. Adam and Eve would not believe, It’s Punkie night tonight.” Click on the link below to hear the full song.
It’s Punkie Night Tonight