Continuing in the “Odd History” series of blog posts this week, I am proud to bring you the “Odd History of Halloween.” I can’t think of a better topic to write on regarding “odd histories” than Halloween. I mean really, think about it: people dressing up in costumes, going door to door in their communities, asking complete strangers for candy. Or sticking your head in a tub of water and grabbing apples with just your teeth. Or carving a pumpkin with a face and sticking a candle inside to light it up. This stuff is just ODD.
So in my quest to discover the histories behind these strange customs, I thought I’d start with the question of the “Jack O’Lantern.” Where did this tradition come from exactly? In doing my research, I ran across an interesting, albeit utterly unrelated question I wanted to solve: Is the pumpkin a vegetable, or a fruit? Click Here to read my findings.
So, back to the question of where Jack O’Lanterns came from: There is a tradition about a man named Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil one too many times. He had made the devil promise not to take his soul when he died. Due to Jack’s unsavory character, God would not allow him into heaven, and the devil would not take him into hell due to the promise he had made Jack. Instead, he gave Jack a burning coal, which he placed inside a carved out turnip, to light his way through the night.
The tradition of trick or treating comes from the ancient Celts, who would place goodies out on their doorsteps and light candles for the wandering ghosts trying to find their way back to the spirit world. The night they would do this was called “Samhain.” Supposedly, the veil between the spirit world and the material world was thinnest during this night, thus the unusual number of ghosts and spirits wandering around.
Finally, the tradition of “bobbing for apples” comes from either Celtic or Roman (it is debated still) practices. Some say that it comes from the Roman goddess Pomona, while others argue that the game is a part of the Celtic pagan religious festival of Samhain where families would gather together for a communal feast. Supposedly, whoever would bite the apple first in the group would be the first to marry. Interestingly, the game is fading in popularity because of sanitation issues. That in my mind, is not odd.
While I’m thinking on the subject of holidays (do you realize Christmas is only about two months away?), be sure to check out the growing collection of Custom Holiday Cards at PrintMyThing. And, Happy Halloween!