Halloween dates back over 2,000 years and is even older than Christianity itself. It first began in Ireland as a pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain, which means ‘summer’s end’, and was held on the 1st of November. The Celts believed that the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest this time of year. To protect themselves, bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits and people would wear costumes to trick the ghosts.
Here we have some more interesting facts that you may not know about Halloween:
1. Halloween Pumpkins are Known as Jack O’Lanterns
The name Jack O’Lantern originated from Ireland. It comes from an Irish folklore tale about a man called ‘Stingy Jack’. Legend has it that ‘Stingy Jack’ tricked the Devil and was doomed to roam the Earth, never being able to go to Heaven or Hell. To light his way, he carried a carved-out turnip with a burning piece of coal inside.
When Irish immigrants settled in America, they began using pumpkins instead of turnips, as they were cheaper and easier to carve.
2. Trick or Treating has Changed Over the Years
Trick or treating has been a tradition going back years, but it hasn’t always been performed how it is today.
Some believe that trick or treating originated when something called ‘souling’ was done. This was when people would knock on doors for a ‘soul cake’, (a small, round cake) and in return they would offer prayers.
In medieval times, there was a similar activity known as ‘guising’, which saw youngsters knocking on doors for money and food in exchange for songs, rhymes, or tricks that they could perform.
Today, the tradition has changed into children getting dressed up and asking for sweets.
3. Halloween Used to be Called All Hallows’ Eve
In the eight century, Pope Gregory III designated the 1st of November as a day to remember the dead, especially saints. This was known as All Saints Day.
Eventually, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain and the evening before was known as All Hallows Eve. This then turned into Hallowe’en and is now just known as Halloween.
4. There is a World Record for the Fastest Time a Pumpkin was Carved.
On 31st October 2013, Stephen Clarke, first held the Guinness World Record for carving a pumpkin in the fastest time. He managed to carve a mouth, ears, eyes, and nose in just 16.47 seconds on live TV.
In 2020. Clarke broke his original record and carved a pumpkin within 9.4 seconds!
5. Orange and Black Symbolise Halloween.
The traditional colours for Halloween are orange and black.
It’s not just because pumpkins are orange, as pumpkins can be found in other colours. The orange is believed to symbolise harvest and autumn, while black symbolises darkness and death.
6. Halloween Masks have a Sinister Past.
The ancient Celts costumes were more bloodthirsty than they are today. The traditional Samhain celebrations saw Celt’s wearing masks made from animal skins and other dead animal parts. The masks were believed to ward off evil spirits as they passed over.
7. 30th October is known as Mischief Night
The day before Halloween was traditionally known as Mischief Night or Goosey Night, in other parts of the UK. This used to be a popular night among young pranksters who would take the opportunity to be mischievous by showering their neighbours’ homes with eggs and toilet paper.
8. It’s Rare to see a Full Moon on Halloween.
Full moons are associated with Halloween, but it is very rare to ever have one on the actual night. The moon can be full approximately every 19 years on Halloween.
The last time there was a full moon on Halloween was in 2020, so we have some time until we see the next one.
9. Black Cats Link to Halloween.
In some cultures, black cats have always been objects of superstition and associated with witchcraft. For centuries it was believed they were the perfect companion for traditional witches and the medieval belief is that witches could also transform into black cats as well.
With their bright green eyes shining out of the darkness, they produce a spookiness which was incorporated into Halloween decorations.
10. The Most Popular Costume.
Witches, ghosts, goblins, and all manner of scary and evil spirits have been a part of Halloween for years. But witches reign supreme over Halloween and is the most adorned costume of all. With the popularity of ‘Hocus Pocus’ and other witching films it’s no surprise they are the most popular costume you will see.
Did you know… the name ‘witch’ comes from the old Saxon word ‘wica’ and means ‘wise one’.
11. Some Halloween Rituals were used to find Husbands.
In the 18th century, young single women would use Halloween traditions to help them find their romantic match.
One tradition was for the young lady to throw apple peels over their shoulder in the hopes that when they turned around their future intended initials would be seen.
Another, more competitive tradition, was that the first one who was successful at apple bobbing would be the first to walk up the aisle.
The spookiest tradition was for a young lady to stand in a dark room, holding a candle in front of a mirror, in the hopes that their future husband's face would appear to them over their shoulder.
12. Trick or Treating was Postponed during World War II
During World War II sugar was rationed which halted any trick or treating during this time. Once the rationing ended, confectionary companies upped their game with advertising campaigns to cash in on the Halloween tradition, ensuring children were yearning for their products.