Every October 31st people all over the world (or at least in most parts of Europe, North America, and Latin America) celebrate the ancient holiday of Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve. Although today it features costumes, trick-or-treating, and ghost stories it wasn’t always that way. Read on to find out 25 things you didn’t know about Halloween.
Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.
In case you were wondering, Samhain is actually an ancient Celtic celebration during which people would dress up as ghouls and spirits in order to escape the notice of what they thought were real spirits wandering the streets.
Samhain wasn’t the only ancient festival to influence modern day Halloween. Pomona, an ancient Roman festival had a strong influence as well, especially with events like bobbing for apples.
Halloween has been called a number of things throughout the years including All Hallow’s Eve, Lamswool, Samhain, Summer’s End, and Snap-Apple Night.
The modern name of “Halloween” derives from “Hallowe ‘en”, a contraction of the phrase All Hallows’ Eve.
Trick or treating comes from an ancient Celtic tradition where people would put out treats to appease wandering spirits during the festival of Samhain.
Owls are popular halloween images. In medeival europe they were thought to be witches and hearing an owl’s call meant death was near.
According to Irish legend Jack O’Lanterns get their name from a stingy man known as Jack who after trying to trick the devil several times was denied entrance into both heaven and hell. Since then he has been condemned to wander the Earth waving his lantern to lead people from their paths.
“Souling” could be considered the medeival equivelant of trick or treating. Every November 1 on Hallowmas the poor would go from door to door offering prayers on behalf of the dead in exchange from soul cakes.
Although Halloween has certainly been influence by numerous ancient holidays and festivals, Ireland is widely considered to the be its birthplace.
Cats hold a prominent place in Halloween folklore and during the ancient celebration of Samhain Druids supposedly through them onto fires in wicker cages as part of their divination proceedings.
According to tradition Scottish girls believed that if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween they would see images of their future husband.
In Mexico, rather than celebrating Halloween they celebrate the Days of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd during which all the townspeople dress up as ghouls and parade through the streets.
In China people celebrate Teng Chieh, or the Lantern Festival. Lanterns in the shape of dragons are hung around town in order to lead spirits back to their earthly dwellings.
Salem, Massachusetts and Anoka, Minnesota are both the self-proclaimed Halloween capitals of the world.