The UK and the US both love Halloween! But did you know this holiday filled with trickery and sweets originates from an ancient festival in the British Isles? It’s true, not just a bunch of… hocus pocus! (Sorry.)
Halloween originates from the ancient Gaelic celebration of Samhain, a harvest festival which celebrated the end of the summer, or light half of the year. The Celts believed that during this time of year the walls between the living and dead worlds became thin, allowing spirits to pass through. Demons, fairies, and other creatures were thought to walk the earth on the eve of Samhain. Which sounds completely logical…
3. The Celts wore costumes to confuse spirits and to avoid being possessed
*Whether or not they wore costumes to imitate their favourite pop stars is still under debate, but the Celtic equivalent of Miley and Robin Thicke would certainly be an interesting sight.
4. Around the 8th century, the Christian Church adapted Samhain into a celebration of the saints
In the early days, All Saints Day was called “All Hallows.” So, the night before was called “All Hallows Eve.” This morphed into the modern holiday, Halloween! (Isn’t etymology fun?!?)
5. Witches LOVED Halloween because their magical powers were (allegedly) heightened
Sometimes these witches were practising Wiccans, who often worked as a triumvirate with the power of three. Three witches were thought to be more powerful than one, as demonstrated by the Sanderson sisters and those infamous Stooges from American TV.
6. During their celebrations, witches would cast spells, dance and bob for apples
Apples were sacred objects. Just ask those houses with no candy and toilet paper all over their yard.
7. Townspeople believed these witches had made pacts with the devil…
Well, who among us hasn’t? Amirite?!? Oh, nobody? OK, just kidding I guess…
8. They would often light bonfires to scare flying witches from landing near them
…which seems kind of a lame defence against somebody who is LITERALLY IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN. But whatever.
9. And they continued the Celtic tradition of dressing up in costume to scare off spirits—but called it “guising”
It was also tradition to give gifts to the poor who went door to door begging on All Saints’ Day. Historians think these two traditions merged into the modern practice of trick-or-treating. A tradition that would have been much different if it were called All Boondock Saints Day…
10. That witch smashed my jack-o-lantern!
Jack-o-lanterns are another British tradition, except they used to be made from turnips (a practice that persists to this day in Scotland, where ‘neepy lanterns’ are common). The practice of carving pumpkins probably originated in the US because of Billy Corgan or the fact that they’re more common in the US… one of the two.
11. We hope you have a safe and fun Samhain filled with tricks and treats, but hopefully no witches!
Unless of course, you’re into that sort of thing.
12. “Now dance, dance until you die!”