The History Of Halloween (It's All About Marrying, Guys!)
The Debrief: Toss apple peels over your shoulder to spell out your future love's name! Yay, you're going to marry FWEGW!
Whether you dress up as Maleficent and bob for apples til midnight, or hate the whole thing and refuse to open doors to happy kids dressed as cats, the history of Halloween is pretty interesting. And used to be all about getting married, finding a husband, figuring out what sort of husband you'd get married to. Exhausting, but also fun if you're bored this year and fancy chucking some apple peel around the house. Here is the origin of Halloween... how it started... a few facts.. a brief timeline... Ready?
Around 2,000 years ago, the Celts celebrated new year on 1 November – called Samhain. They believed that on the eve of the new year, dead spirits may come back to life. Masks and disguises were used to blend in with the evil spirits, so if they came to earth, they'd think you were one of them. By 43 A.D. the Romans had waded in and they also happens to celebrate the passing of the dead in late October. So they combined Samhain with their celebratory days and by the 9th century, Pope Gregory III expanded it to include all saints and martyrs. 2 November was made All Soul's Day and people reckon the Church was slowly trying to replace all Celtic festivals with church-approved day.
Halloween used to be all about marrying
Forget scaring your mate with an embarrassingly dated Scream mask, Halloween was traditionally about figuring out who you were going to marry. Or trying to get married. If you fancy giving this a go, try making some mashed potato a la 18th century Ireland. It's mashed potato with a ring shoved in it, and whoever finds it gets true love if they haven't choked to death. Alternatively, why not buy some hazelnuts, give them the names of people you fancy and throw them in a fire? The nuts that burn to ashes, rather than exploding or popping, represents your true lurve. Annoyingly, in some cultures the absolute opposite is true – nuts that burned away meant it won't last. So good luck.
Another top fave is tossing apple peels over your shoulder (They'll spell out your future love's name! Yeah, you're going to marry FWEGW!), looking at some egg yolks (You're going to marry an egg yolk!) and standing in darkened rooms looking over their shoulders into mirrors to see their future husband's faces (You're going to share yourself shitless!).
Bat symbolism isn't an accident
In order to keep the spirits away, Celts would burn huge bonfires and perform rituals of fortune telling with the fire. This would also serve to scare insects away, and attract loads of bats, which is why bats are often associated with Halloween.
Apple bobbing was either down to the Romans or Pagans
The second day of celebration that the Romans introduced was to honour Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. Her symbol is the apple, and the blending of this celebration with Samhain most probably explains why people put their head in buckets of water in an attempt to get apples with their teeth during Halloween. It's a fun game, and surprisingly satisfying. Especially if shots are involved. Another theory is that it was used for fortune-telling – the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using his or her hands would be the first to marry.
Carving pumpkins wasn't always a thing
It was actually turnips, originally. Doesn't look quite as clean and cute, but definitely creepier. Like shrunken heads.
Trick or treating used to be quite sad
Some believe that it actually started in the Middle Ages, after the Church had taken over the traditional Samhain idea (where the idea of dressing up came from – see above). Poor adults and children would go 'guising', dressing up and going from door to door begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers on behalf of the dead. This was called 'souling' and those who did it were called 'soulers'.
The first mention of trick or treating as we know it now wasn't until the early 20th century. It does not seem to have become widespread (and as we know it) until the 1930s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term 'trick or treat' appearing in 1927. Newspapers reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising on Halloween between 6 and 7 pm., visiting shops and neighbours to be rewarded with nuts and sweets for songs, but it was increasingly more for fun rather than out of poverty.
Okay, so I am fully acquainted with the history of Halloween, what should I read now to get the most out of my 31 October?
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At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating