If you suffer of Samhainophobia, you might want to stop reading right now because this is all about pumpkins, Jack-O’-Lanterns and Trick-or-treats. Halloween is creeping up quickly, and it’s time to discover all the ins and outs of what might be one of the world’s scariest holidays.
Back in the days…
Halloween is believed to come from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where people lit bonfires and wore costumes to scare off wandering ghosts. Later on, some of the Samhain traditions were incorporated in the Christian tradition of All Saints Day, a holiday to honor saints and martyrs. The evening before was known as All Hallow’s Eve, which later turned into Halloween. Although nowadays Halloween is more about costumes and candy, it never really lost its spooky character.
Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere!
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Halloween, pumpkins spring to mind. Carving Jack-o’-lanterns is a century-old tradition based on Irish folklore. The sinister fable tells the tale of Jack, who tricked the devil which resulted in him wandering around the darkness of purgatory after he died. The story goes Jack made a lantern from a turnip and burning coal, using this to guide his lost soul.
Other symbols of Halloween are black cats, having a reputation of bringing bad luck; bats, a sign of haunting ghosts and death; spiders; witches and their broomsticks. Sounds like a fun holiday to me…
Traditions around the world
In America, Halloween is the time to dust off your costume and hit the streets for some trick-or-treating. Candy of all sorts and the more the better. But how does the rest of the world celebrate Halloween – if they do?
In Austria people leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table to welcome the dead souls back to earth.
The Chinese place water and food in front of photographs of their loved ones who have passed away. Bonfires and lanterns are lit to light the paths of the spirits traveling the earth on Halloween night.
Chairs are placed by the fireside on Halloween night in Czech republic; one chair for each living member of the family and one for each family member’s spirit…
The French do it differently. No baguettes for wandering spirits here – this “American” holiday is only really known since 1996 and mainly considered a good reason to dress up and party.
In Germany however, Halloween is serious business. People put away their knives because they don’t want to risk harm to or from the returning spirits.
The Swedes do it best: Alla Helgons Dag is celebrated from October 31 until November 6!
Things you didn’t know about Halloween
- The traditional colors of Halloween are orange and black – orange symbolizing autumn and harvest, while black stands for ‘death’ of summer, and darkness.
- In the US, Halloween is the holiday when the most candy is sold; it’s second to Christmas in total sales.
- Halloween is also the third-largest party occasion next to Christmas and New Year’s Eve
- Nasty but true, Halloween can give you diarrhea… Consuming too much candy that contains the sweeteners fructose and sorbitol could spoil your party big time.
- Halloween could also cause heart failure; not the scary costumes, but again, the candy is to blame.
It might all sound a bit scary, but in reality, Halloween is just fun and is worth celebrating! Where will you be on October 31st? Witch hunting in Salem, Massachusetts? Trick-or-treating in the Halloween capital of the world? How about a visit to America’s most haunted city… I might opt for Transylvania this year. Tell us your plans!