Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Traditions and Origins

Think about the traditions associated with Halloween -- trick or treating, dressing in costume, bobbing for apples ...
Have you ever wondered where did that come from?
Wonder no more. Here's the history on some of Halloween's customs:
* Centuries ago, Halloween was a two-day celebration. Ancient Celtics marked Oct. 31 as Samhain (sow-win), signaling the end of harvest time, and then the start of a new year on Nov. 1.
* At night, people put food on the doorstep outside to appease evil spirits who might otherwise play a trick on them or try to come inside.
* Because it was believed that ghosts came back to earth on Halloween, people would wear masks and costumes when they left their homes so the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
* Once upon a time "witch" meant "wise one." People thought that witches told fortunes and flew out of chimneys on broomsticks.
* Ancient Romans bobbed for apples, believing that the first person to catch an apple with his or her teeth would be the first to marry in the new year.
* In the Middle Ages people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats.
* In ancient Ireland, people carved faces in turnips and potatoes and beets -- not pumpkins.
* People used to carve turnips into lanterns to remember the souls held in purgatory.
* In the early 1800s, American carved pumpkins to celebrate the harvest. It was not until decades later that pumpkin carving became part of Halloween festivities.
* Trick or treating dates back to the Middle Ages, when rich people gave poor people "soul cakes" (baked goods) if they promised to pray for the giver's dead family members.
* The origin of jack-o-lanterns is linked to Irish folklore in which a notorious drunkard and trickster named Jack tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree trunk, trapping the devil in the tree. They made a deal: Jack would let him down if the devil promised to never tempt him again. When Jack died he was denied entrance into heaven because of his evil ways, and the devil denied him entrance to hell because of the trick he played, forcing him to forever roam in the frigid darkness. According to the folk tale, the devil gave Jack a single ember to light his way, and the ember was placed in a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

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