The Unknown Origins of Scary Halloween Traditions

1. Jack-o-Lanterns

You have probably heard that initially, this indispensable Halloween element was carved out of turnips in Ireland. But do you know why people started carving them? This tradition is based on a legend about Stingy Jack, a man who managed to trap the Devil himself and set him free only on one condition: Jack would never go to hell. What Jack did not know, though, was that heaven did not really want his soul, either. So, the doomed soul had to be wandering the earth till the end of times. For some reason, Devil felt sorry for Jack and gave him a burning coal to light his path on earth. Local people started curving lanterns to scare off the spooky spirits, like that of Jack.

2. Ghosts

Celts believed in spirits that were walking our planet during Samhain. This idea was later perpetuated in Christian tradition, after the missionaries introduced All Souls Day, during which the souls were hanging out in the living world.

3. Scary Costumes

Contrary to a popular misconception, costume tradition is not new. In fact, Celts came up with the idea of disguising themselves to avoid bad-tempered spirits. Dressed as ghosts, people thought they would be treated as such by the visitors from the world of dead.

4. Trick-or-Treating

Almost everyone agrees that receiving candies for free is great. What people cannot agree on is the origin of this fabulous tradition. Some trace it back to Samhain when Celts used food to pacify angry spirits. The most courageous and cunning people, however, used this tradition to their advantage and started to dress up as ghosts to enjoy the offerings themselves.

5. Scottish Way to Trick-or-Treat

Some people think that trick-or-treating is rooted in the Scottish tradition of guising, also known as souling. Back in the medieval times, poor children and adults would go from house to house and ask for food in exchange for prayers, which were to be said at All Souls Day. Later, prayers were replaced with funny stories and jokes, in other words, ‘tricks.’

6. Black Cats

Back in the Middle Ages, black cats (just as red-haired women) were believed to be the friends of the Devil. Interestingly, women accused in witchery often happened to own black felines. The reputation of the latter seems to have been tarnished forever. Even today, in the 21st century, black cats are still associated with dark magic, ghosts, and devilish deeds.

7. Black and Orange

These classic Halloween colors also originate from Celtic traditions, in particular, Samhain celebrations. The interpretation is pretty simple: while black symbolizes death, orange is the representation of autumn harvest.

8. Candles and Bonfires

Today, people light candles more often, but in the Celtic tradition, open flames were more common because they were used to light the way of spirits and souls, which were going ‘home.’

These are only few traditions you can tell your friends at Halloween parties. They will be a perfect complement to your scary costume and will help create an unforgettable festive mood.


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