8 Weird Facts about Halloween Oct 28, 2014 11:58:41 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 28, 2014 11:58:41 GMT -5
8 Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween
Halloween is a time for ghosts, witches, candy, costumes and grinning pumpkins, but how did it get this way? One might ask why children and teens are encouraged to run around the neighborhood threatening tricks? Jack-o’-lanterns are a pretty strange concept, but in the 20th century, strangers giving children candy was supposed to be a bad thing.
You may already think Halloween is a pretty bizarre holiday: What other celebration could inspire both a Sexy Olaf costume and spooky drones? This said, sexy snowmen can’t hold a candle to Halloween’s truly bizarre origins (even if that’s just because a snowman would melt if it held a candle). Chances are you really have no idea just how weird Halloween truly is, so here are eight facts to fix that ....
1. Dancing for a ‘treat.’ Most scholars trace trick-or-treating to the European practice of “mumming,” or “guysing,” in which costume-wearing participants would go door-to-door performing choreographed dances, songs and plays in exchange for treats. According to Elizabeth Pleck’s Celebrating the Family, the tradition cropped up in America, where it would often take place on Thanksgiving. In some early versions of trick-or-treating, men paraded door-to-door, and boys often followed, begging for coins. Most of these early trick-or-treaters were poor and actually needed the money, but wealthy children also joined in the fun. Door-to-door “begging” was mostly stopped in the 1930s, but re-emerged later in the century to distract kids from pulling Halloween pranks.
2. Halloween is more Irish than St. Patrick’s Day. Halloween’s origins are from a Celtic festival for the dead called “Samhain.” The Celts believed the spirits of the dead roamed the Earth at this time, so people would dress in costumes and leave "treats" at their front doors to appease the roaming revenants. Granted, the Celts were not solely based in Ireland when these customs began taking shape around the first century BC, but as will be discussed later, the Irish Celts were the ones who invented the jack-o’-lantern. This Halloween prototype was eventually disrupted and adapted by Christian missionaries into celebrations closer to what we celebrate today, including the non-Irish St. Patrick, whose work was later primarily recognized by Americans. “St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented in America by Irish-Americans,” said Philip Freeman, a classics professor at Luther College in Iowa. According to National Geographic, the holiday was only a “minor religious holiday” until the 1970s in Ireland. So it’s really not all that Irish. And for what it’s worth, as aforestated, St. Patrick probably wasn’t Irish himself; his color was a shade of blue, not green, and that story about banishing snakes is actually just a metaphor for his triumph over Irish paganism – the sort of paganism that invented Halloween.
3. The first Halloween costumes. If you had been around for the earliest Halloween celebrations, you might have worn animal skins and heads. According to the records of the Romans, tribes located in present-day Germany and France traditionally wore costumes of animal heads and skins to connect to spirits of the dead. This tradition continued into modern day celebrations of Samhain, the Celtic holiday that inspired Halloween in America. On this day, merrymakers often dressed as evil spirits simply by blackening their faces. The leader of the Samhain parades wore a white sheet and carried a wooden horse head or a decorated horse skull (a modern Welsh version of this costume is shown above). Young people also celebrated by cross-dressing.
4. Jack-o’-lanterns from turnips, beets and potatoes. The jack-o’-lantern comes from an old Irish tale about a man named Stingy Jack. According to folklore, Stingy Jack was out getting sloshed with the Devil when Jack convinced his drinking partner to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks. He then put the Devil, shaped like a coin, into his pocket, which also contained a silver cross that kept Old Scratch from returning to his original form. Jack promised to free the Devil as long as the Devil agreed not to bother him for a year, and if he died, the Devil could never claim his soul. Jack tricked the Devil again later, getting him to pick a piece of fruit from a tree and then carving a cross into the bark while the Devil was up in the branches. This trick bought Jack another 10 years of devil-free living. When Jack finally died, God decided he wasn’t fit for heaven, but the Devil had promised never to claim his soul. So Jack was sent off to roam the Earth with only a burning coal for light. He placed the coal into a turnip as a lantern, and Stingy Jack became “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack o’ Lantern.” Based on this myth, the Irish carved scary faces into turnips (above), beets and potatoes to scare away Stingy Jack or any other spirits of the night.
5. Finding your soulmate on Halloween. In some parts of Ireland, people celebrated Halloween by playing romantic fortunetelling games, according to Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers. These games allegedly predicted whom they would marry, and when. Since Halloween, like Valentine’s Day, was one of the main celebrations of the year wherein young people could mingle with the opposite sex, it was also considered a good day to scope out a sweetheart. In America, young people, particularly girls, continued the old Irish tradition. Games, like tossing apple peels attempted to predict future romances.
6. ‘Cabbage Night.’ In a few American towns, Halloween was originally referred to as “Cabbage Night.” This came from a Scottish fortune-telling game, wherein girls used cabbage stumps to discern information about their future husbands. In early Framingham, Massachusetts, teens skipped the fortunetelling and simply went around throwing cabbage at the homes of their neighbors, according to Framingham Legends & Lore. This was no isolated tradition: In late 19th century America, country boys reportedly rejoiced in throwing cabbage, corn and assorted rotten vegetables, according to Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.
7. Black Cats. Some animal shelters won’t allow the adoption of black cats around Halloween for fear they’ll be sacrificed in dark Satanic rituals. It is unclear whether black cats are actually sacrificed around Halloween, but various animal shelters refuse to let people adopt these cats in the days leading up to October 31. Lynda Garibaldi, director of The Cats’ Cradle in Morganton, North Carolina, said the shelter “does not adopt out black cats during the month of October ... because of superstition and the concern that the wrong people (who might harm them) might adopt them.” This sort of ban is beginning to wane, however. When reached for comment, Emily Weiss, vice president of Shelter Research and Development at the ASPCA, said, “Years ago, this used to be pretty common – that shelters would not adopt out cats during Halloween for fear of something horrible happening to the cats, but we don’t hear too much anymore. And many, many shelters are actually [holding] a special black cat promotion around the holiday.”
8. Halloween costumes turn kids evil. Studies have shown that Halloween actually makes kids act more evil. According to io9, putting costume-wearing kids into groups and introducing a clear object of desire, such as candy, has been shown to lead to “deindividuation.” This psychological term explains what happens when a group of maturing young minds begins to care less about the consequences of their individual actions, leading them to do things they might not do alone. One study in particular found that unsupervised costumed children in groups were far more likely to steal candy and money than both non-costumed kids and individual children. Another similar study found that masked children were significantly more likely to take more Halloween candy than they were supposed to take if they believed there was no adult supervision.
Sources: Todd Van Luling & Amanda Scherker, The Huffiington Post, October 24, 2014; Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers; and Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton..