All the Haunted Facts
Halloween Broken Down
All superstitions started from some ancient civilization. Men and Women of the Celtic Ireland time period, would set extra places at the table, leave treats on their door step and along the side of the road, and they light a candle so their loved ones could find their way home easier (History Channel, 4). We believe that if a black cat crosses our path it would curse us with bad luck all because in the Middle Ages people believed that witches could turn themselves in the form of a cat to avoid detection. The same thing with walking under a ladder that superstition was based off the Ancient Egyptians. They believe triangles were sacred (History Channel, 4).
Today our “ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too” (History Channel, 4). In other words, the History channel is saying our modern day ghosts and superstitions are more gross and wicked than in ancient times. Many of the olden day’s superstitions pertained to the young women finding their future husband’s identity. In Ireland, a “match-making cook” would bury a ring in the mashed potatoes served for supper in hopes that it would bring her future husband to the table, in the 18th century. If you lived in Scotland and were a young woman the fortunetellers would tell you to name a hazelnut for every one of your suitors and throw them into the fire. The hazelnut that doesn’t explode and burned to ashes represented her future husband. Another trick told to young women was that if you ate a sugary concoction of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed, they would see their future husband in their dreams. Other ways to find a future husband were “young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces.” Halloween superstitions seemed to play a huge roll in finding who your future husband would be.(History Channel, 4).
Halloween superstitions had gone from helping lost souls of family members to finding out your future husbands identity to not wanting to step on a crack otherwise you’ll break your mom’s back.
History of Trick-or-Treating
The origin of Trick-or-Treating can be traced back to many cultures. The Celts dressed in Animal Skins to drive away their phantom visitors and left banquet tables with edible offerings to placate unwelcome spirits. In England, “poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives.” In other words the History Channel is saying, that poor people would pray for dead relatives of the person who gives him food (History Channel 3). This was known as Souling and soon the children were doing this too.
In Scotland and Ireland young people participated in guising. The young people would dress up in a costume and perform a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or do another trick for a treat (History Channel 4). Another British custom was for children to participate in Guy Fawkes Night. The kids would wear masks and carry around effigies while they would beg for pennies. Guy Fawkes Night honors Fawkes, a man who was executed for his role in a Catholic-led conspiracy, for foiling the so-called Gunpowder Plot in 1605 (History Channel 5).
In the mid-19th century America some colonist celebrated Guy Fawkes Day but, when large amounts of immigrants sailed over, bringing their culture with them, the Halloween tradition popularized. The Irish Potato Famine refugees had a huge influence on this. The tradition of guising and souling continued all threw to the 1920s then the young people started playing tricks causing $100,000 in damages a year in major metropolitan areas (History Channel 5). The Great Depression in the 1930s intensified Halloween mischief. One theory believes the creation of an organized community based trick-or-treating tradition was because of the mischief. During WWII trick-or treating subsided because of sugar rationing. After the war during the baby boom trick-or-treating reclaimed its place with other Halloween traditions and became the standard practice for millions of kids.
Today we still trick-or-treat and it is very kid friendly and community oriented. We still dress up as our favorite monsters and people while stopping and asking for candy. Today Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween. Halloween has taken 2nd place in the largest commercial holiday charts (History Channel 8).
History of Halloween
The traditions of Halloween began with the ancient Celtic festival Samhain (the celebration of the end of summer and the beginning of fall). The Celtics believed that on the night of October 31st the boundary between the worlds of the dead and living became blurred, so the dead could return to Earth. The spirits would damage crops but also their presence was thought to of helped the druids make predictions of the future (History Channel 1). People sacrificed animals and lit bonfires to aid the dead and also to keep them away (American Folklife Center 2).
The ancient festival Samhain became our Halloween because of Christian missionaries and the Romans. The Romans conquered the Celts and so their holidays began to combine. Feralia was combined with Samhain to incorporate the passing of the dead. The Christian missionaries succeeded in transforming major beliefs but, in 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued his now famous edict concerning native beliefs. He didn’t want to completely destroy their cultures so he told his missionaries that “if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.” In other words, Pope Gregory asserts that instead of forcing then Celts to give up their present way of life to live ours let them bring some of their old practices and combine them with our religion (American Folklife Center 4).
They Catholic Church substituted All Souls Day for Samhain in hopes for more Celts to turn to Christianity. As their cultures began to blend so did their holidays. All Souls Day was celebrated just like Samhain was in the beginning. When Halloween came to America it was very limited because of the strict nature of the colonies. According to the History Channel, Halloween was mostly celebrated in the southern colonies including Maryland (History Channel 5). Halloween was celebrated back then by “play parties,” where men and women celebrated the harvest, told ghost stories, shared stories of the dead, told each other’s fortunes, danced and sung, and had lots of mischief makers (History Channel 5). More traditions were added during the immigration flood in the early nineteenth century. In the late 1800s was when Halloween made the transition from witch craft to more community oriented. In the 1920s to 1930s many parades were held in celebration of Halloween. (History Channel 8)
Today almost all of our current Halloween traditions can be traced back to the Ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (American Folklife Center 17).
History of the Jack O'Lantern
The creation of the Jack O’ Lantern started from the Irish myth: “Stingy Jack” (History Channel, 1). According to legend, Stingy Jack invited the devil over to drink with him. His nick name of Stingy was true because he did not want to pay for his drink. He convinced the devil to turn himself into money so Jack could pay for the drinks. The devil did that and Jack paid for the drinks but, instead of letting the devil change back Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross. Its holiness prevented the devil from changing back. Jack let the devil go on the account of the devil couldn’t bother him for one year and when he died the devil wouldn’t claim his soul. The next year, Jack tricked the devil again by sending him up a tree to pick a fruit. While the devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the bark. Once again he freed him, only with another favor. The devil couldn’t bother Jack for another ten years (History Channel, 1). Jack soon died and the devil kept his promise of not allowing Jack into hell and God wouldn’t let such an “unsavory” figure into heaven, they sent Jack off in the dark with only a burning coal to light his way. To see better he carved out a turnip and has ever since roamed the Earth. He became known to the Irish as “Jack of the Lantern” then “Jack O’ Lantern” (History Channel 2).
History Channel states, “In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits.” In other words, History Channel asserts that Irish and Scottish people protected themselves from Stingy Jack and other evil spirits by placing jack-o-lanterns on their doorstep. When immigrants immigrated from Ireland and Scotland they brought this tradition but, instead of using turnips or potatoes they found a native fruit that was better. The Pumpkin.
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Girl doing a Superstition. Digital image. Celtic Lady. Celtic Lady, 28 Oct. 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://celticanamcara.blogspot.com/2007/10/halloween-superstitions.html>.
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Jack-O-Lantern. Digital image. Deck the Holidays Blogspot. Blogger, 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://decktheholidays.blogspot.com/2010/10/tips-for-keeping-your-jack-o- lantern.html>.
Santino, Jack. "Halloween." : The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows (The American Folklife Center, Library of Congress). Library of Congress, 1 Oct. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html>.
Stingy Jack. Digital image. Planting Seeds Blog. Word Press, 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <PlantingSeedsBlog.com>.
The History of Halloween. Digital image. ESLPrintables. N.p., 27 Oct. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.eslprintables.com/forum/topic.asp?id=38499>.
"The Legend of "Stingy Jack"" History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2012. Web. 30 Oct.
Trick-or-treat. Digital image. Word on Fire. Catholic Ministries, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/October-2012/Culture--Time- for-Catholics-to-Embrace-Halloween.aspx>.
" Trick-or-Treaters. Digital image. Deck the Holiday's Blogspot. Blogger, 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://decktheholidays.blogspot.com/>.
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- Young woman performing a famous superstition. Digital image. Celtic Lady. Celtic Lady, 28 Oct. 2007. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://celticanamcara.blogspot.com/>.
- Witches Cackle. Rec. 27 Oct. 2010. 2010. MP3.
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