Tonight is the night for trick and treats, ghostly and eerie costume parties and parades. Diaries of the vampires will be opened, the howl of werewolves shall be imitated, stories of witches performing weird rituals and calling upon spirits will be told – all to make each other scared. Fake cobwebs adorning the ceilings, floors smeared with fake blood, plastic bats and owls staring at you; will be the welcoming guests for any Halloween themed party. But did you know that it’s a day when you are mocking the devil himself?
Sush… the devil must not hear. Read on (in your head) 8 intriguing facts about this spooky festival.
8. The Celtic Festival – Samhain
The Celts of Ireland, UK, and France, thousands of years ago; celebrated Samhain on Nov. 1 to mark the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of a new year, marked with the cold bitter winters; associated with death. They believed that a night before Samhain, the lines between the world of the living and dead become blurred and that the ghosts return to the earth and damage the crops. The Druids, priests of the celts, were believed to have given the visions of the future by ‘otherworldly’ spirits. The Druids would make a huge bonfire and the Celts, dressed in costumes made of animal skin, would sacrifice their animals and crops to the Celtic Gods. When the Samhain celebrations were coming to an end, the Celts would re-lit their hearth fires with fire from the sacred bonfire built by the Druids in hopes that its heat will keep them safe during the treacherous winters!
7. And So Halloween!
During the 7th Century, Christianity spread across the Celtic lands thereby influencing their tradition, culture and also the Samhain festival. The moniker Halloween originated from Catholicism’s All-hallowmas, a three-day holiday honoring the saints and recently deceased. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decreed Nov. 1 All Saints’ Day and the evening before, All Hallows Eve. Nov. 2 later became All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the deceased. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas. The night before All Saints’ Day, the night celebrated as the traditional Samhain festival came to be known as Halloween.
6. Divining Your Future Spouse
According to superstitions of the 1800s, one could divine who their future spouse would be, by doing a trick with mirrors, apple pairings, and yarn. There have been many superstitions revolving around, to find what your future spouse would look like.
The one with the Yarn – Throw a ball of yarn out of the window and hold on to the other end. As you wind up the yarn call out repeatedly ‘I wind, who holds?’ Before you reach the end of the yarn the face of your love will appear in the window and/or the name of your love will be whispered in your ear.
The one with the apple – One version says you should eat the apple while holding a candle and looking in the mirror. Then you will see your future husband or wife over your shoulder.
Don’t know if it’s romantic or scary!
Irish legend has it that one day the devil himself came to take the spirit of a farmer nicknamed Stingy Jack. Jack would call on the devil and trick him. On one such instance, Jack invited the devil to have drinks at a bar. Pretending to have no money, he asked the devil to convert himself into a coin so that they could pay the bills. The devil did so and instead of paying, Stingy Jack kept the coin in his pocket along with a silver cross. He believed this would prevent the devil from returning to his original form. Legend says God wouldn’t let a man like him into heaven. And the devil, unsurprisingly angry with Jack and his cons, wouldn’t let him into hell, either. Instead, the devil sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light the way, History.com reported. Jack put the burning coal into “a carved-out turnip” and has been roaming the planet since. Irishmen began to refer to Stingy Jack as “Jack of the Lantern” and later, “Jack O’Lantern.”
4. Witches or Black Cats?
Legend has it, that the witches who worshipped the devil would metamorphose into a black cat, to protect their true identities. Hence Black Cats are another creepy symbols, signifying Halloween. The Puritans and other strict Protestants, shunned witchcraft and such traditions as they were against their belief systems. They vehemently executed black cats on Shrove Tuesday to protect their houses from fire. Black cats were considered the symbols of bad luck and witchcraft. They were cemented alongside the bodies of the witches or used for Halloween decorations. Even now, black cats are not adopted as much as cats with other colored furs. One can’t adopt a black cat before Halloween as it is feared. they might be sacrificed.
3. Trick or Treat?
The idea of Trick and Treating stems from the 9th-century practice of ‘souling’. On 2nd November, All Souls Days, Christian children would walk the streets singing and saying prayers for the dead souls who are supposed to have returned, in lieu of ‘soul cakes’. When loved ones depart the mortal world, the family prays for their souls to reach heaven. The more prayers that were given, the more soul cakes were won. Trick or Treating is also stemmed from Guising. The orphans and widows would disguise themselves in ghostly apparels asking for food and supplies, to prepare for the long winter.
Halloween is one festival which is marked by a palpable sense of Superstitious beliefs.
- Halloween epic has it that you can see a witch on this night. Wear your clothes inside out and then walk backward. You’ll definitely see one coming for you at midnight!
- Imagine yourself walking down a road with an uncanny silence on a Halloween night. Suddenly you hear footsteps racing towards you trying to catch your pace. Never look back. It’s believed it’s death itself which has come to pry upon you. If you look back, it shall be the end for you.
- During the Celtic period, villagers would disguise themselves as the spirits, which were believed to have descended on the earth. This was done to protect the feasts from being congregated upon by the dead.
1. Salem – The Halloween Capital of the World
Salem – Massachusetts is a self-proclaimed Halloween capital of the world. There is a chock-full of shops that cater to witches, with a witch museum and scores of other spooky sites. Walking in Salem is like living beyond just ordinary. Many Wiccans have taken up residence in the city and some walk around wearing traditional garb on a daily basis. The city breathes the Witchcraft culture and as Halloween approaches, the number of people in costume increases manifold. Salem on Halloween is an extraordinary experience, with people thronging the streets in every sort of costume imaginable. People consider this place as a 365 day long Halloween party. It’s a place where dreams and nightmares come alive.
Most of these facts are a concoction of folklore, superstitions, supernatural and loads of history and mystery. I hope you now know the meaning behind every element of this super creepy and spooky festival.