Halloween is observed in several countries on 31st October but do you know why it is celebrated? This day is dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all those who've departed. Apparently, it originates from the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people light bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
Of course now, Halloween is about so much more, it includes activities like trick-or-treating, attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, apple bobbing, lighting bonfires, playing pranks, divination games, telling spooky stories, visiting haunted attractions and watching horror films. Sounds like fun, right? But, here are some interesting facts about this festival that we bet you've never heard of.
How did it all start?
Okay, firstly the word Halloween is derived from Hallows eve. It dates back to about 1745 and it comes from a Scottish term 'All Hallows' Eve which means 'saints evening'.
This festival was first celebrated in Ireland and now, it is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. Reports suggest that people spent about $8 billion on Halloween, in 2015.
And did you know that the Jack O’Lanterns were made from turnips? Well, now you do. Pumpkins came into the scene and were carved into lanterns, much later. As per the Irish legend, Jack O’Lanterns were named after a stingy man named Jack.
It is said that Jack tricked the devil on many occasions and was forbidden entry into both heaven and hell. So, he roamed on Earth waving his lantern to distract people away from their paths. Spooky!
Supposedly, Halloween was influenced by the ancient Roman festival named Pomona. It celebrated the harvest goddess of the same name. That's how we have costumes of apples and nuts on Halloween.
However, no matter how popular this festival is, there are some people who still fear Halloween. This fear is known as Samhainophobia and even today, thousands of people suffer from it. Also, can you guess how old this festival is? If your answer is 6000 years old, then you are right. It came into being around 4000 BC. OMG!
Oh you know earlier, owls were seen as witches and it was believed that to hear an owl's hoot call meant someone was about to die. This is a superstition that some still believe in.
Halloween is also known for witches. In fact, the word 'witch' is derived from the Old English 'wicce' which means 'wise woman.' This also means that in ancient times, witches were seen as respected women and not just someone who kills people.
Pumpkins play a huge role in the festivities and the largest one was grown by Norm Craven. It weighed 1,872 pounds and it also broke the world record in 1993. Just look at it. That's huge.
What colours are associated with Halloween?
Black and orange are the colours associated with Halloween. Orange represents strength and endurance while black symbolizes death and darkness. They are like the two sides of a coin which means, Halloween marks the aspects of life and death.
Trick or treat?
Originally, the concept of trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition. Treats and food were put out to pacify spirits who roamed the streets on Halloween. Now, children dress up in their spooky attire and go from door-to-door to collect candies and chocolates.
There are some weird superstitions also that are attached to this festival. One such belief is that if you wear your clothes inside out and walk backwards you may see a witch at midnight.
There is another superstition involving black cats. It is said that these cats bring bad omen. This is one of the reasons why animal shelter don't allow adoption of black cats during this time because they fear the cats would be cursed or sacrificed.
Some also believe that if a child is born on Halloween he/she may have special powers of talking to spirits.
It is celebrated in a big way in New York as compared to any other country. The Village Halloween parade in New York City is the largest Halloween parade in the United States. There are over 50,000 participants and over 2 million spectators. Woah!