You may already think that Halloween is a pretty bizarre holiday: What other celebration could inspire you to don a Sexy Olaf costume or to cut up your bed sheets in an effort to look like a ghost (or, worryingly, a member of the KKK)? That said, sexy snowmen can’t hold a candle to Halloween’s truly bizarre origins (even if that’s just because a snowman would melt if it held a candle). Chances are you really have no idea just how weird Halloween truly is, so here are some facts to fix that. You’re welcome.
Originally you had to dance for your treat! I’d love it if that were still the tradition.
Most experts trace trick-or-treating to the European practice in which costume-wearing participants would go door-to-door performing choreographed dances, songs and plays in exchange for treats. The tradition cropped up in America, where it would often take place on Thanksgiving.
In some early versions of trick-or-treating, men paraded door-to-door, with boys often in hot pursuit, begging for coins. Most of these early trick-or-treaters were poor and actually needed the money, but wealthy children also joined in the fun. Door-to-door “begging” was eventually stopped in 1930s USA but re-emerged later in the century to distract children from pulling Halloween pranks.
Halloween is more Irish than St. Patrick’s Day.
Halloween actually originates from a Celtic festival for the dead called Samhain. Celts believed the ghosts of the dead roamed Earth on this holiday, so people would dress in costumes and leave “treats” out on their front doors to appease the roaming spirits. Granted, the Celts were not solely based in Ireland when these customs started taking shape around the first century B.C., but it was the Irish Celts who invented the jack-o’-lantern. This Halloween prototype was eventually disrupted and adapted by Christian missionaries into celebrations closer to what we celebrate today, including partly by the not-Irish St. Patrick, whose work was later mostly recognized by Americans.
St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented in America by Irish-Americans. According to National Geographic, the holiday was only a “minor religious holiday” until the 1970s in Ireland. So, it’s not all that Irish. And for what it’s worth, St. Patrick probably wasn’t Irish himself, his colour was a type of blue, not green, and that story about banishing snakes is actually just a metaphor for his triumph over Irish paganism. The type of paganism that invented Halloween.
Wearing skin and bone
According to ancient Roman records, tribes located in today’s Germany and France traditionally wore costumes of animal heads and skins to connect to spirits of the dead. This tradition continued into modern day celebrations of Samhain, the Celtic holiday that inspired Halloween in America. On this day, merry-makers often dressed as evil spirits simply by blackening their faces. The leader of the Samhain parades wore a white sheet and carried a wooden horse head or a decorated horse skull. Young people also celebrated by cross-dressing.
Halloween was romantic
In some parts of Ireland, people celebrated Halloween by playing romantic fortune-telling games, these games allegedly predicted who they’d marry, and when. Since Halloween, like Valentine’s Day, was one of the main celebrations of the year where young people could mingle with the opposite sex, it was also considered a good day to scope out a sweetheart. In America, young people, particularly girls, continued the old Irish tradition. Games, like bobbing for apples, tried to predict future romances. Maybe this is why people insist on dressing sexy at Halloween rather than scary! Valloween! Innit?!
Anyway, Happy Halloween all! Hope you get your tricks, treats and romance on this All Hallows Eve! This has been this week’s Thursday Thoughts. Coming to you live from Spookeasy. Good night and good luck.