When we think of Halloween nowadays, we think of children dressing up as ghouls, witches and so much more, turning up on our doorstep to trick-or-treat. Or perhaps for those of us who have moved on from the joys of trick-or-treating, Halloween is more about the grown-up themed parties. But what do we know about the origins of Halloween?
Halloween myths and facts
Myth # 1 Halloween is an American festival celebrating devil worship with sacrifices
Fact # 1 Halloween actually originated from a Celtic festival called Samhain.
Samhain marked the division between the ‘light’ half of the year, i.e. spring and summer months and the ‘dark’ half of the year, autumn and winter. Celts believed that the division between the human and spiritual worlds waned during Samhain. In an attempt to discourage bad spirits, many Celts would wear costumes to ward off ghouls.
Myth # 2 Halloween traditions such as apple bobbing are an American tradition
Fact # 2 Halloween traditions such as apple bobbing date back to Roman eras!
Apple bobbing is one such tradition which is rumoured to have Roman origins. Some historians believe that apple bobbing could be representative of belief in the Roman Goddess Pomona, whose symbol just happens to be an apple.
Myth # 3 Jack O’lanterns are another American tradition and pumpkins are carved for decorative purposes
Fact # 3 Jack O’lanterns originate from Ireland and were often made from turnips and parsnips
The Jack O’lanterns originate from the ‘Legend of Stingy Jack’. This Irish tale tells of a man who invited the devil for a drink, but being miserly in nature, claimed he had no money for drinks. Jack convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin to pay for drinks. However, tricky Jack kept the coin himself, placing it next to a cross in his jacket, preventing the devil from re-taking his original form. Cunning Jack only allowed the devil to return to his full form after extracting a promise that no harm would befall him for a whole year, and if it did, the devil would not claim his soul.
At the end of the said period, Jack once again tricked the devil into climbing into a tree to fetch a piece of fruit and craftily carved a cross in the bark so as to prevent the devil from escaping. Again, Jack extracted a promise from the devil not to claim his soul for another 10 years before letting him down.
Unfortunately, soon after, Jack died, but God allowed the trickster into heaven and the devil kept his word too not to claim Jack’s soul. The devil sent Jack on his way into the dark night, with nothing but a chunk of burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a piece of turnip, and hence the Jack O’lantern was born!
Hauntingly Halloween-y movies
Regardless of the myths and facts behind Halloween’s origins, Halloween has become a well celebrated day that has even given rise to its own genre of movies.
Tim Burton seems to have cashed in on this trend as his films all seem to have an underlying Halloween-y feel. What’s more, Burton’s animations are host to some of the best voice talent- with the like of Chris Sarandon providing the American voiceover for the lead character of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare before Christmas.
Others too seem to have realised that Halloween forms the perfect date for the release of a horror films. The American Halloween film series and less gruesome films like the animation Dear Dracula were both released on Halloween, showcasing that Halloween truly has earnt its place amongst well-celebrated festivals.
So, whether you spend the day apple bobbing, trick or treating or simply screeching at a good horror movie… Halloween is here to stay.