For many people, Halloween is little more than a night of dressing the kids up in costume and going door to door in search of treats from benevolent neighbors. For the adult crowd, it’s an excuse to party and serves as a kickoff to the upcoming holiday season. Current traditions are now well established but many of the ways Halloween is acknowledged have evolved greatly over the centuries. Here are some oddities about the early days of Halloween.
- The commonplace carved jack-o-lantern on the front stoop didn’t start out as a pumpkin. This tradition comes from a Celtic myth about a farmer forced by the devil to carry a lump of coal through purgatory in search of a way out. The farmer used a carved turnip to carry the coal and guide his lost soul. The pumpkin didn’t become the standard for jack-o-lanterns until the 1800’s when the Celtic legend made its way to the United States. Turnips were not plentiful but pumpkins were readily available.
- Many of the traditional symbols of Halloween are Wiccan in origin. In fact, Halloween is considered to be the Wiccan New Year. Witches made use of many symbols representing bad luck, such as black cats, bats and spiders that are still associated with the Halloween celebration today. Owls were actually thought to be witches out on Halloween night to announce the impending death of someone.
- The favored colors of orange and black that surround the Halloween celebrations are not just randomly chosen. Orange is representative of the fall harvest and black brings in the elements of darkness and death that give a sinister aura to all Halloween festivities.
- Folklore has it that any spider you see crawling about on Halloween is really the spirit of a deceased loved one who has come to call. Killing spiders on this day is highly discouraged.
- Surprisingly, Halloween is second only to Christmas in the United States as a commercial holiday. All of that candy, those costumes and creepy decorations pull in big bucks for retailers. In light of that fact, it comes as no surprise that the push for Halloween sales starts earlier each year. It’s entirely possible to complete your Halloween shopping at the same time as you do your back to school shopping.
- Halloween comes in at number six in the rankings for the number of greeting cards purchased. Apparently, wishing someone a ghoulish day is just as popular as wishing them a happy birthday.
- More chocolate is sold for Halloween celebrations than for Valentine’s Day. Fortunately for chocolate lovers, if stored properly, chocolate can be stored for up to two years. Those who prefer the always popular candy corn that is so prevalent at Halloween will just have to eat up a little more quickly. The shelf life of candy corn is not nearly as long.
Halloween is a holiday all about fun and mystery despite its dark and gloomy history. The origins of some of the customs are the subject of controversy at times but the end result is an entertaining holiday meant to delight children and adults alike.