Things you probably didn’t know about Halloween

While a vast number of population are looking to formulate any old excuse to deck the halls and erect their Christmas tree, there is still the small matter of Halloween to take care of.

You guessed it – the sight of pumpkins have become as common as muck, pumpkin spiced lattes have returned to the menus of coffee chains and weird, wonderful and – in some cases – awful costumes are everywhere.

Come Halloween night, homes everywhere will be inundated with callers seeking a treat, threatening a trick if the home owner doesn’t comply and hand over all sweets within a nearby radius.

This pretty much sums up the season we have come to know and (kind of) love as Halloween.

But what is it we aren’t too aware about Christmas’ less favoured sibling?

Originally, you had to dance for your treat

Most experts trace trick-or-treating to the European practice of “mumming” or “guysing”, in which costume-wearing participants would go door-to-door performing choreographed dances, songs and plays in exchange for treats.

In some early versions of trick-or-treating, men paraded door-to-door, and boys often followed, begging for coins. Most of these early trick-or-treaters were poor and actually needed the money, but wealthy children also joined in the fun. Door-to-door “begging” was mostly stopped in the 1930s, but re-emerged later in the century to distract kids from pulling Halloween pranks.

Halloween is more Irish than St. Patrick’s Day.

Halloween’s origins come from a Celtic festival for the dead called “Samhain”. Celts believed the ghosts of the dead roamed Earth on this holiday, so people would dress in costumes and leave “treats” out on their front doors to appease the roaming spirits.

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 know as 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.

Halloween used to be a great day to find your soulmate.

In some parts of Ireland, people celebrated Halloween by playing romantic fortune-telling games, according to Nicholas Rogers’ “Halloween: From Pagan Ritual To Party Night.” These games allegedly predicted who they’d marry, and when. Since Halloween, like Valentine’s Day, was one of the main celebrations of the year where young people could mingle with the opposite sex, it was also considered a good day to scope out a sweetheart.

In a few American towns, Halloween was originally referred to as “Cabbage Night.”

This came from a Scottish fortune-telling game, where girls used cabbage stumps to predict information about their future husbands. In the early Framingham, Massachusetts, teens skipped the fortune-telling and simply went around throwing cabbage at their neighbors’ houses, according to Framingham Legends & Lore. This was no isolated tradition: In late 19th century America, country boys reportedly rejoiced in throwing cabbage, corn and assorted rotten vegetables, according to “Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.”

Studies have shown that Halloween actually makes kids act more evil.

As io9 points out, putting costume-wearing kids into groups and introducing a clear object of desire, such as candy, has been shown to lead to “deindividuation.” This psychological term explains what happens when a group of maturing young minds begins to care less about the consequences of their individual actions, leading them to do things that they might not do alone.

One study in particular found that unsupervised costumed children in groups were far more likely to steal candy and money than both non-costumed kids and children not in a group. Another similar study found that masked children were significantly more likely to take more Halloween candy than they were supposed to if they believed there was no adult supervision.

Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas.

Yep – Still playing second fiddle to Christmas.

The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.

Wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.

*Facts courtesy of Huffpost.com and FactRetriever.*


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