If you live in the United States (and a growing number of other countries), October wouldn’t feel complete without pumpkin carving, costumes, and Halloween candy. But these traditions we take for granted now have deep roots, which may surprise you.
You can trace many of today’s most popular holidays to cultural and religious festivals thousands of years ago – and Halloween is no exception. However, other influences have also been nominated to make Halloween what it is today.
Where did these October traditions come from? Let’s take a look back in time at the history of Halloween you never knew you had.
trick or treat
Many Halloween traditions have roots allow, the pagan religious festival of the ancient Celts. All the Samhain, the Celts, believed that the gap between our world and the world of spirits narrowed, and on this one night every year, spirits walked the earth.
trick or treat It is just one tradition that comes from this ancient holiday. Initially, food was left to pacify dangerous spirits during Samhain. But as this tradition passed through the centuries, people began performing tricks or services in exchange for food and drink, instead.
By the Middle Ages, the tradition included the poor knocking on the doors of the wealthy to obtain “soul cakes” in exchange for praying for the souls of deceased wealthy family members. In Ireland and Scotland, this tradition was adopted by children and called ‘disguise’, because they would wear costumes or ‘disguise’ when they knocked on doors for gifts. Kids also perform a “trick,” such as a song or joke, to get a reward.
Eventually, European immigrants brought a modern version of this practice to the United States. By that time, many people also celebrated Mischief Night, which included causing trouble the night before Halloween. To shift the focus away from these pranks, societies have encouraged trick-or-treating as a peaceful alternative and have given us the tradition we now practice.
Halloween costumes Another tradition started with Samhain. Since spirits were believed to roam the land during this time, festival-goers would wear costumes made of animal skins so that evil spirits would not recognize them. If the costume was scary enough, the Celts believed the spirits would mistake them for another spirit and leave them alone.
In retrospect, this tradition appears to have shifted to “guessing,” which was the earlier version of trick-or-treating. European immigrants to the United States brought this tradition with them, as it was encouraged as a positive activity for children.
By then, the idea of singing or praying in exchange for food had become less popular, and the night was all about costumes and sweets.
How did mass-produced candy become an integral part of Halloween? Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer relates to big business.
sugar rationing During World War II, candy became a rarity, even on Halloween. When the rations ended, candy brands were preparing to exploit the trick or treat as making the money they knew could be.
Trick-or-treat fit perfectly in the regulated health of the 1950s suburbs. Candy companies have pushed this idea, along with their healthy, affordable, individually wrapped products, until it has become a Halloween staple.
Jack-o’-lanterns decorate balconies across the United States each October. This tradition is hundreds of years old and has roots Irish legend About a man named Stingy Jack.
He invited the devil for a drink and tried to evade payment by convincing the devil to switch to a coin to buy. Jack kept the demon in the form of a coin in his pocket next to a silver cross, to prevent it from returning to its true form.
In the end, Jack decided to free the devil on one condition: the devil could not take his soul when he died. Then he deceived Satan again and trapped him in a tree by carving a cross in the bark.
When Jack died, God could not let him into Heaven, but Satan could not take his soul either because of their deal. Jack’s soul was banished to Earth with a single light-burning coal, which he kept in a hollow turnip.
In Ireland, Scotland, and England, people carved their faces into turnips, potatoes, and beets, and placed them near the entrances to their homes to celebrate this legend. According to superstitions, the carvings would prevent stray spirits, like Jack. When immigrants brought this tradition to the United States, they adopted pumpkins for carvings.
Although the original folklore is often forgotten, the tradition of pumpkin carving has spread and spread across the country.
bonfires and parties
We can thank the old Celts and Samhain for this season’s fireworks and partying, too.
The Celtic New Year has begun November 1, so Samhain was more than just a scary time for spirits – it was also New Year’s Eve. Since this also marked the end of the harvest season, there were usually plenty of rewards (and alcohol) to feast on. The Samhain party was obligatory – if you did not attend, the Celts believed that the gods would punish you.
Bonfires were also an important part of the celebration. Animals and crops were sacrificed in the fire to please the gods. Families also used the flames from the bonfires to re-ignite their stoves in preparation for the coming cold.
As mentioned above, when these traditions arrived in the United States, the holiday was geared more towards children to reduce Mischief Night pranks. However, adult Halloween celebrations are once again very popular, just as they were since thousands of years through Samhain.
bobbing for apple
One of the weirdest Halloween traditions is to use your face to get an apple out of a tub of water.
The origin of this ritual is unclear. Some think it comes from roman tradition Honoring Pomona, the goddess of trees and fruits represented by the apple. After the Romans conquered Celtic lands, the autumn apple ritual may have merged with the Celtic Samhain celebration.
However, there is not enough historical evidence to support this theory. What we do know is that the modern version of the apple bobbing game evolved from an Irish game called Snap-Apple.
to play Snap-AppleYou had to hold an apple in your mouth as it swayed on a rotating wooden board. A burning candle at the other end of the board added a level of suspense – either you catch the apple or you burn your face. This risky harvest tradition became so popular that, for a while, Halloween was called Snap-Apple Night in parts of Ireland and England.
Over the years, players have ditched the lit candle and spinning board in favor of a tub of water with apples instead. It may be safer this way, but it’s not very healthy, which may explain why wobble over apples has not been preferred in recent years.