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Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloween facts

During some down time, I took a moment to gather interesting Halloween facts from around the vast webbernet to share with you. Enjoy!


  • Most sources trace Halloween’s origins to an ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain. The Celts were a group of people who lived in present day Ireland and England from about the 5th Century BC. Samhain (pronounced sow-en) was an end of the summer commemoration that occurred near the end of October. The end of summer was a significant event for ancient peoples because it represented the end of warmth and sunlight, and times of plenty, and the entry into a time of shorter days, colder nights, and deprivation. And naturally, such dark times would be accompanied by dark spirits. (Source:
  • On All Hallows’ eve, the ancient Celts would place a skeleton on their window sill to represent the departed. Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Believing that the head was the most powerful part of the body, containing the spirit and the knowledge, the Celts used the "head" of the vegetable to frighten off the embodiment of superstitions. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • The name jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside of a hollowed turnip. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. (Source:


  • Pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were completely unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus. In 1584, the French explorer Jacques Cartier reported from the St. Lawrence region that he had found "gros melons", which was translated into English as "ponpions," or pumpkins. In fact, pumpkins have been grown in America for over 5,000 years. Native Americans called pumpkins "isquotersquash." (Source:
  • The carving of jack-o'-lanterns originated from the tradition of carving the faces of lost souls into hollowed out pumpkins and turnips. A candle was placed inside the carvings making the faces glow. The Halloween lanterns were placed on doorsteps to ward off evil spirits. (Source:
  • When European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America they found the native pumpkin to be larger, easier to carve than turnips or gourds and seemed the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns. (Source:


  • Trick-or-treating is thought to have its origins in a European custom called souling where people would beg for "soul cakes." (Source:
  • In some parts of Ireland and Scotland children still go guising. In this custom the child performs some sort of show, i.e. sings a song or tells a ghost story, in order to earn their treats. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors. (Source:


  • Frankenstein is the name of the Doctor. Author Shelley apparently declined to give the creature a name to emphasize the idea that it has no place in God’s plan. The monster, however, in several places compares himself to the biblical Adam, telling Frankenstein “I ought to be thy Adam.” (Source:
  • In India, a character called the Dund rides about headless, although his noggin is tied to his saddle. The Dullahan of Irish folklore is a headless spirit seen riding a headless horse. The Green Knight of medieval legend is beheaded by Gawain, but rides away carrying carrying his own head. In a 1777 work by the German poet G.A. Burger, Der Wilde Jager, a ghostly huntsman is condemned for his cruel demeanor on earth. He rides with his hell hounds through the woods and chases innocents. The poem is based on German folklore and in some versions, he’s headless. The best known of the Headless Horsemen, however, appears in Washington Irving’s 1820 story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (Source:
  • The vampires we are most familiar with come from an Eastern European Slavic tradition, replete with blood-drinking, rising from the dead, and an aversion to sunlight. Vampires have been with us through most of recorded history and across many civilizations. There are the soul-sucking hopping corpses of China, the Greek Lamia, which has the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a winged serpent, the Japanese vampire foxes called Kitsune, and the torso-separating Filipino Manananggal. (Source:

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