Whilst working at WhatCulture.Com as an Editor, I also wrote a number of successful articles for the site. These articles garnered around a million views over 22 articles, with 469 social media shares. This particular article attracted 54,000 unique readers, 41 Facebook shares and 11 Twitter shares.
10 Halloween Facts That Will Blow Your Mind
Bet you didn’t know where the witches come in…
Halloween is probably the second most popular festival around the world for children, with the first obviously being christmas (presents!), but the vast amount of candy and chocolate this time of year brings is definitely a good thing. On top of that, getting to dress up in a cool costume with mom and dad and wander the cul-de-sac asking for more candy from your neighbours makes this holiday the perfect one for little tykes dressed in their best Luke Skywalker bath robe.
If that wasn’t enough, they also get to stay up later than normal, watch scary films and tell scary stories! There is camping, fires, marshmellows and pumpkins to be carved into Jack O’Lanterns. But the origins of those things we love so much is often a lot darker than we tell our children… and ourselves.
Case in point, Jack O’Lanterns are put on our porches to scare away a murderous spirit who tricked the Devil and was punished by God. We use pumpkins because thousands died during the potato famine, and turnips and potatoes were very hard to get, whereas pumpkins were plentiful. Trick Or Treating used to be a violent street party, that would shut down entire cities like Mardi Gras does to New Orleans these days.
Don’t even get us started on the druids who would burn black cats alive in the ancient festival of Samhain…
Well, if you really want to know… Just click next, and find out why we really fear the dark…
10. Halloween Is A Modern Version Of Samhain, A 6000 Year Old Festival
Modern Halloween is usually considered the modern combination of the ancient festivals of Hallowmas and Samhain, which are both celebrated around November 1st and both involve celebrating the spirits of the dead or the dormancy of winter.
All Hallows’ Eve and Hallowmas are around 2000 years old, begin a version of the much, much older Samhain (which is though to be around 6000 years old). Samhain is Gaelic for summer’s end, and was a celebration of the end of summer and the beginning of winter. A celebration of all the food collected and stored in summer, ready for the harsh months of winter.
The exact nature of ancient Samhain isn’t fully known, as records from the time are either non-existant or very, very sparse. It was certainly a celebration at the end of the harvest, when all of a tribe or village would gather and celebrate the end of the harvest, and the safe return of animals from pastures and feeding grounds.
The changing of the seasons also had a traditional component of spiritualism, with the change signifying that the walls that separate this world and the next would be thin, and spirits could come calling.
All of these traditions piled in together, with a few others throughout the millennia and eventually formed the candy fuelled nightmare that haunts our streets every October.
9. Trick Or Treating Is Actually A Form Of Ancient Begging
Trick Or Treating is a tradition that everyone is familiar with. What they may not be familiar with, is the origins of the tradition and why we do it at Halloween and at no other time of the year.
Well, it used to be extremely common to go from door to door as part of a festival. Take carol singing, it’s the same tradition but for a different festival. The homeless and poor would sing for gifts from wealthy homeowners at times of goodwill.
The act used to be called mumming or guising, where people would don a disguise or a costume – usually made from straw – and go around the village asking for food or cakes. Occasionally, the whole town would wait at home and then follow the mummers around when they came to their door, eventually all congregating in a central square where the mummers would perform for the crowd.
The other begging traditions that are most well known are souling – where European peasants would go door to door on Hallowmas (the first of November), asking for food and offering prayers for the deceased; and Thanksgiving begging in America, where children would go out asking for food door to door.
8. The Tricks Used To Be Dangerously Raucous, Ending In Hardcore Vandalism
Trick Or Treating is easily the most recognisable and best part of modern Halloween. It’s fairly tame now, with the worst tricks being toilet-papering someone’s house, or perhaps throwing a few eggs. In the past however, things were much, much worse.
Around two hundred years ago, trick or treating was an essential part of Halloween festivals around the world, but the tricks were much more like dangerous and violent pranks than simple annoyances. In the US especially, tricking became a point of pride, and pranksters would let chickens out, open animal pen gates, tip over outhouses, demolish sheds, and fire pistols into the air outside people’s homes.
In the early 20th century, especially between the World Wars the pranking became so endemic that reports state that entire city blocks would be closed and thronged with people partying and destroying property, smashing windows and almost rioting.
It’s a commonly held belief that it was these events that caused the festival to be more directed toward children, and encouraging of dressing up and modern Trick Or Treating as a safer alternative to engaging in fights and vandalism.
7. Bobbing For Apples Is Designed To Tell You If You Will Marry Next
Bobbing For Apples is probably the most common and most popular Halloween game, aside from the traditional Trick Or Treating. It’s a common game to play with kids, easy to set up, easy to understand and cheap to do yourself at home to keep the sprogs entertained for five minutes.
It wasn’t always so pure and innocent though. Bobbing began as a way to take advantage of the spiritual powers that wandered the world on All Hallow’s Eve. The concept is one that is represented in thousands of folkloric games and spells, that of finding a husband.
The game would work like this; A group of young, eligible girls would gather and fill a large barrel with water. They would then take fresh apples and carve a tiny piece off and eat it. Then the apples are thrown into the water, where they float. The first girl to manage to take an apple out of the water barrel without using her hands would be the next girl to marry.
The girls could also use the apples to predict who they would marry. If a girl could peel the apple in one continuous strip, and throw it over her shoulder at midnight on Halloween, then the peel would land in the shape of her intended’s initial.
6. Halloween As A Time For Evil Came To America With Irish Settlers
Conservative and religious people have always worried that Halloween encourages the satanic or demonic influences. In some ways, they’re right. Studies have shown that children are more inclined to acts of malevolence after celebrating Halloween. But from a traditional point of view, Halloween has never been about evil or the devil.
In fact, ancient pagans and Celts had no concept of the devil to associate with Samhain. Although throughout history fairies, witches and warlocks have all been associated with autumn festivals it was only in the move to America that Satan became a part of the festivities.
The crossover may have come due to a very old and traditional aspect of Halloween – that of the day of the dead, of spirits wandering the world and attempting to contact those they left behind. This may also be where costumes come from, of dressing as a spirit so as to blend in with the other spirits on Halloween Night.
5. Carving Jack O’Lanterns Has A Dark, Dark Origin
Jack O’Lanterns have an ancient and dark tale to explain their origins. The tale apparently originates with an old Irish legend of a man known only as Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack was, like all good men, ‘tricked’ into getting drunk with Satan, and when time came to pay his bill he lived up to his name and didn’t want to pay.
Jack convinced Satan to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks, without actually spending any real money. Unfortunately for Satan, our Jack was a sneaky one and he had planted a silver cross in his pocket. He pocketed the Satan-coin and the cross stopped the devil from using any of his powers or changing back.
Jack promised to free Satan on two conditions; firstly, that the Devil would never bother him for at least a year, and secondly that when Jack died, Satan could never claim his soul. The legend goes on to say that Jack tricked the Devil again, gaining another 10 years of devil-free living. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… you get the point.
Years later, Jack died and God turned him away from heaven because of his tricksy ways, but the Devil had promised to never claim the soul of Jack. Jack was forced to wander the Earth forever, given only an ever-burning coal from hell for a light. He later carved a lantern out of a turnip and put the coal into it, to allow him to carry it without burning his hands.
Ever since that night, Jack has become Jack Of The Lantern, the modern Jack O’Lantern and he wanders the world, looking for food to sate his hunger, and lashing out to provoke someone into killing him, giving him the death he can never have. Ancient versions of tricks and treats. This is the reason the Irish carved scary faces into turnips, beets and potatoes to scare away Stingy Jack or any other evil spirits wandering the land.
4. Pumpkins Weren’t The Original Lanterns
Jack O’Lanterns have always been a part of the the halloween tradition, in some form of another. But Pumpkins are a fairly recent edition, and we go back to the Irish to find out why.
People traditionally carved faces into hollowed-out turnips and potatoes to scare away spirits, but as the Irish potato famine of 1846 devastated potato and turnip crops and as immigrants were forced to move to the U.S.A due to lack of food and recession, people began carving the more common and cheap gourde Pumpkins that were plentiful in North America.
The tradition still stands and pumpkins are used today.
3. Halloween Isn’t The Original Name For The Holiday – Neither Is Samhain
Actually Halloween isn’t the original name for the festival… and when it comes down to it, neither is Samhain.
The festival, or various versions of the same celebration has been called All Hallow’s Eve, Lamswool, Witches Night, Samhain, Summer’s End and of course, the best name… Snap-Apple Night.
In an amazing turn of events, the Government have just announced that Halloween is being renamed to the more traditional Snap-Apple Night. We’re all very happy about that.
2. Many Animal Shelters Won’t Let You Have A Black Cat This Time Of Year… In Case You Murder It!
To be fair to the animal shelter owners and managers, this actually has a basis in truth… sort of.
It may be medieval christian propaganda, but the legends say that druids and pagan leaders in the ancient festival of Samhain would throw cats, especially black cats into a fire, alive. They were often kept in wicker cages, and the whole cage was thrown in, as part of a divination ritual to see the future.
1. Halloween Has A Very Evil Real World Consequence
Unfortunately, Halloween celebrations and the fact that so many children are wandering the world relaxed and unsupervised has some dark, dark effects on the people of the world and the level of danger we’re all in, especially young ones.
The chance of a child being hit by a car, and the chance of a hit and run occurring is double the rate on Halloween night than it is on any other night of the year. Consequently, the child mortality rate is much, much higher on Halloween than any other time.
Dark facts for a dark festival. Be safe out there. The night is dark and full of terrors.