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Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween

1) Halloween began as a Celtic tradition over 2,000 years ago.
The Celtic festival of Samhain, meaning “Summer’s End,” was the seed for our modern conception of Halloween. Marking the passage from life-giving summer to the often deadly winter, the day of October 31st featured massive sacrificial bonfires, wherein people burned crops and animals as offerings to the gods. To confuse malignant spirits, the Celts wore costumes, a tradition that children now take from door to door in American neighborhoods.

2) Halloween got its name thanks in part to Pope Gregory III.
In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III moved “All Hallows’ Day,” a celebration of the church’s saints, to November 1st. The Celts’ traditional celebration on October 31st, the day before this new Christian holiday, came to be known as “All Hallows’ Eve,” which eventually morphed into “Halloween.”

3) It was the Celts’ descendants, the Irish, who introduced Halloween to America.
Not surprisingly, the Puritans had no interest in the pagan holiday of Halloween, so it was ignored in America for hundreds of years. It wouldn’t be until the 1800s, when an influx of Irish immigrants arrived on the East Coast, that Halloween began to take hold here.

4) In Ireland, the jack-o’-lantern was carved from turnips, beets, or potatoes. And it wasn’t even connected to Halloween.
The first jack-o’-lanterns, carved from several different types of vegetables, were used to scare away Stingy Jack, a legendary man who made a deal with the Devil and was condemned to roam the countryside. These lanterns wouldn’t be made out of pumpkins until the Irish brought the tradition to America, where pumpkins are abundant. Only then did jack-o’-lanterns start to become associated with Halloween.

5) An estimated 90% of American children will trick or treat this Halloween.
Our modern practice of trick or treating grew from the medieval practice of souling, in which the poor would move from door to door on All Souls’ Day, November 2nd, asking for handouts in exchange for prayers. While there is no such religious connotation today, our children continue the Celtic Samhain practice of disguise. But it’s safe to say they needn’t worry about roaming evil spirits.

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One Comment
  1. I’ve always questioned my mom before whenever she prepares a head-like pumpkin for Halloween. Now I know what the answer is, thanks!

    October 2, 2009

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