Halloween, eh? This holiday has been Americanised hugely over the past few decades, with trick-or-treating now being one of the main focuses. Yet, for all the North American influence, Halloween still has a distinctly European influence behind it. Here’s a few things you may or may not know about this most ghoulish of holidays …
– Despite its Christianisation, Halloween has kept many of its pagan ways of observation, including bonfires, dressing up and parades were common.
– Halloween is derived from the pagan festival of Samhain. Samhain has been blended into many other similar holidays ever since, including Roman harvest festivals, All Saints’ Day and All Hallows Eve – a day celebrating all Christian saints.
– Halloween is full of all sorts of ghastly costumes and ghostly goings-on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is an irrational fear of Halloween, known as “Samhainophobia”.
– According to an old wives’ tale, should you wear your clothes inside-out and walk backwards on Halloween, you may just well see a witch at midnight. After much experimentation, we believe there might be some truth to this, but it may have just been someone dressed up in a witch costume.
– Harry Houdini died on Halloween, October 31st, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan.
– Seen a spider in your home on Halloween? One superstition states that this spider is the spirit of a loved one watching over you.
– You’ve no doubt heard about fortune cookies, but fortune bread? Well, Irish Halloween custom includes making Barmbrack, a fruit loaf made with raisins and sultanas. In the bread would be one of the following items: a pea, meaning that they would not marry; a rag, which symbolises poverty; a coin meant riches; a stick stood for an unhappy marriage and a ring heralded a new marriage. Barmbracks still often contain a toy ring to this day.
– Jack-o’-lanterns also have roots in Irish mythology and folklore. Apparently, its origins lie in the story of “Stingy Jack”, a character who played tricks on the devil and, upon his passing away, was doomed to walk the earth for eternity after being barred from entering either heaven or hell. Basically, a sort of Saint of Killers, who didn’t go as far as killing the devil himself.
– There’s a $1000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail for using or selling Silly String on Halloween in Hollywood.
– The Americans have some strange traditions when it comes to Halloween. In some US towns, October 31st was known as “Cabbage Night”. Apparently, girls would use the cabbage stumps to predict information about their future husbands, whilst boys would use them for pranking (and perhaps inadvertently pranking their future wives in the process).
– Full moons on Halloween are exceedingly rare – the next one will likely be in 2020.
-Anyone wanting to go ghost-hunting this Halloween would do well going to Pluckley, Kent – the most haunted village in Britain. There are around twelve ghosts in this town, including a highwayman and two ladies, one dressed in red the other white. Oh, and the woods are said to scream at night. Spooky!
-The popular edition (i.e. the entire book in one novel) of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published on 31st October, 1831.
We hope you can regale the above facts at your next pub quiz, or bore your friends with them at parties (though they won’t complain when you win them that pub quiz prize). Either way, enjoy them, and recount them wherever possible or necessary!