Halloween is just around the corner so we thought you might enjoy a little history about this spooky holiday. Interestingly, many of today’s traditions actually have a base in history. Enjoy!
Halloween may seem like it's all about costumes and candy, but the holiday — which is relatively new to America, having only become popular in the early 1900s — has its roots in pagan beliefs. Dating back about 2,000 years, Halloween marked the Celtic New Year and was originally called Samhain, which translates to "summer's end" in Gaelic.
Often used as symbols of bad luck, black cats grace many Halloween decorations. The black cat's bad reputation dates back to the Dark Ages, when witch hunts were commonplace. Elderly, solitary women were often accused of witchcraft, and their pet cats were said to be their "familiars," or demonic animals that had been given to them by the devil.
A fun fall activity, carving Jack-o'-lanterns actually has its roots in a sinister, tragic fable. Celtic folklore tells the tale of a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil, but his trickery resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell after he died. Having no choice but to wander around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal that the devil had tossed him from hell.
Medieval folklore also described bats as witches' familiars and seeing a bat on Halloween was considered to be quite an ominous sign. One myth was that if a bat was spotted flying around one's house three times, it meant that someone in that house would soon die. Another myth was that if a bat flew into your house on Halloween, it was a sign that your house was haunted because ghosts had let the bat in.
The stereotypical image of the haggard witch with a pointy black hat and warty nose stirring a magical potion in her cauldron actually stems from a pagan goddess known as "the crone," who was honored during Samhain. The crone was also known as "the old one" and the "Earth mother," who symbolized wisdom, change, and the turning of the seasons. Today, the kind, all-knowing old crone has morphed into the menacing, cackling witch.
The witch's broomstick is another superstition that has its roots in medieval myths. The elderly, introverted women that were accused of witchcraft were often poor and could not afford horses, so they navigated through the woods on foot with the help of walking sticks, which were sometimes substituted by brooms.
Trick-Or-Treating in Costumes
In olden times, it was believed that during Samhain, the veil between our world and the spirit world was thinnest, and that the ghosts of the deceased could mingle with the living. The superstition was that the visiting ghosts could disguise themselves in human form, such as a beggar, and knock on your door during Samhain asking for money or food. If you turned them away empty-handed, you risked receiving the wrath of the spirit and being cursed or haunted.
In the U.S., trick-or-treating became a customary Halloween tradition around the late 1950s, after it was brought over by Irish immigrants in the early 1900s.
Bobbing for Apples
In ancient times, the apple was viewed as a sacred fruit that could be used to predict the future. Bobbing for apples is one of the traditional games used for fortune-telling on Halloween night. It was believed that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using their hands would be the first to marry.
If the bobber lucked out and caught an apple on the first try, it meant that they would experience true love, while those who got an apple after many tries would be fickle in their romantic endeavors. Another myth was that if a girl put her bobbed apple under her pillow on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband.
Dean and Draper
We hope that you will have a hauntingly delicious Halloween. When you have scary questions about insurance we can give you straight answers that won’t drive you batty.
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