Halloween is here. You have probably been to some parties already or maybe getting ready for tonight and this weekend. You have your costume ready, a few beverages you have made to take with you or for your guests. You have built your playlists of music and movies for your night. You have even brushed up on the history of Halloween to impress your guests. You are ready to get your holiday under way.
A good party host or guest should always have something to say to keep the conversation moving along. If you are in need of some extra bits of information or just some fun Halloween tidbits, then I hope my 10 Weird Halloween Facts will help you be the conversation starter that keeps people engaged.
10. Carving Jack-o-lanterns. Ever wonder why we carve pumpkins for Halloween? Stories say that it originated in Ireland, where they used turnips instead of pumpkins. I mentioned this in a post earlier this month. But it starts with a legend about a man named Stingy Jack who was really good and trapping the Devil and only let him go on the condition that Jack would never go to Hell. Sadly, Jack also found out that Heaven did not want him. This left Jack condemned to walk the world forever as a ghost. The Devil took pity on him and gave him a burning coal in a carved out turnip to light his way. Oddly enough, the largest Pumpkin on record belongs to MAthias Willemijns from Belgium weighing in at 2,624.6 pounds. Talk about the Jack of all Lanterns.
9. Witches. It is odd that witch costumes have such popularity, given the past and Christianity. During the Middle Ages, women who were smart and had a proclivity to sciences, healers, midwives, or did divination were lumped into the category of witches. For divination, it was thought that women would curl up by their fireplace and start changing, meditating, or using psychoactive drugs to help enter trance states to divine the future. Superstitious people thought that these people would fly out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorize the countryside with their magical deeds.
Halloween is an Irish Holiday
8. Halloween is an Irish Holiday. Most people think that St Patrick’s day is the only Irish holiday, ironically enough so is Halloween. It falls close to the Irish celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sow-win). During this festival it was believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth. To appease them, you would leave them offerings of food. At some point costumes were worn by village folk who went around saying that they too would cause pranks if they were not given a treat. Truth be told, Halloween is more Irish than St Patrick’s Day.
Bobbing for Apples
7. Bobbing for Apples. Why do we bob for apples at Halloween parties/festivals? It is believed that this tradition started when the Romans conquered much of Britain and Ireland. It goes back to the Roman festival of Pomona. Pomona was a goddess of fruit and orchards and she was celebrated around November 1st. It was believed that the first person to catch an apple with their teeth, while bobbing, would be the first to marry in the new year. This custom lasted all the way to the colonial days. This also gave rise to the belief of being able to divine who your lover would be by the apple peels. You would cut the apple peel off in one long piece and throw it over your shoulder. The shape of the peel should represent the first letter of your true love.
6. Seeing Ghosts. Speaking of the Celts and ghosts. During the festival of Samhain, the veil between the living and the other world became extremely thin and allowed spirits to cross back over to our world. During this time, we were more apt to be able to see and interact with them. The Celts also believed that evil spirits could walk the earth as well. Once the Christians came and saw them celebrate Samhain, it was realized that their festival called, All Souls’ Day, which takes place on November 2nd, was very similar. They both had the idea that the living and dead could interact during this time of year.
5. Black Cats. Black cats really get a bad reputation, especially during this time of year. We can, again, thank the Middle Ages for this one. During this time it was thought that black cats were a symbol of the Devil and oftentimes the familiars of witches. This kind of doubled in belief when the witch trails started and people were finding those accused of witchcraft had cats as their pets. People believed that the Devil worked through their familiars to give them access to dark powers. Since those times, black cats and witches have been the best of buds.
Halloween and Fire
4. Halloween and fire. One theory, mentioned above, explains that we light jack-o-lanterns due to Stingy Jack. Another theory also dates back to the Celts. During this time of year they would light large bonfires to ward off spirits and lead them to the afterlife. Oftentimes using this same sacred fire to light their hearth fires for the winter. Over time it became much easier to use candles for this representation, think of the story about putting a candle in the window for someone to find their way to you. Candles are also a bit more safe than large bonfires, where wind can carry a spark and set ablaze an entire forest of homes. The candle in a jack-o-lantern is used to ward off those evil spirits, just like its tribal bonfire ancestor.
3 Cabbage Night? I know you are probably thinking that I have lost my damned mind, but would you believe that some American towns actually referred to October 31st as Cabbage Night? Much like the idea of Devil’s Night, kids would go around throwing cabbages at neighbors houses. This was also around the time that egging was supposed to have started. The story goes that at some point those same kids realized it was easier for them to get treats (candy and chocolate) from their neighbors than it was to throw produce.
2. Romantic Halloween. Okay, I promise you that I have not over carved my pumpkins with this one. Just hear me out. Remember above when I mentioned that people would carve apples to divine who their future love would be? This was just part of the romantic fortune telling games they played during this time of year. Others included counting the number of seeds to indicate if you were going to marry a poor or a rich man. One also included taking two apple seeds and names them for the two choices of lovers in your life, wetting them, and sticking them to your head. The first seed to fall off would be the one you were not going to marry. Some Scottish girls believed that by hanging up wet sheets the could see the faces of the future husbands.
How Old is Halloween?
1.How old is Halloween. So, saving the weirdest for last. Halloween is thought to have originated around 4000 BC, that’s 2000 years older than when Christ was supposedly born. That also means that it is over 6000 years old. This makes it one of the oldest festival/holidays known. To those who thought that the candy companies made up this holiday, you are the weakest link, good bye.
Try these weird facts out when you are showing up to those Halloween parties tonight. Remember that there are spirits walking around amongst us during this time of year. Be careful of who you see and offer them a treat so you don’t get tricked, or worse. Have an awesome and safe Halloween. Remember, if you are out partying and drinking have a designated driver or make sure you are taking an Uber or Lyft to get home safely. Happy Halloween!!!