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Halloween Traditions & It's Spooky Origins

Halloween pumpkins and decorations outside a house

Time to dust your box of Halloween goodies because All Hallows Eve is here.

Needless to say, our excitement for Halloween is evident and we sure hope you’re as big of a fan of all the activities and traditions Halloween has to offer.

But have you ever wondered how these seemingly odd traditions came about? Let’s find out!

The origin of Halloween?

Halloween didn’t always happen with carving jack-o’-lanterns and trick-or-treating.

At the tail-end of summer, the Celtic people would light bonfires and wear costumes to deter ghosts. This originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain and was highly influenced by Christian pagan beliefs and rituals.

Then in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided the date to honor all saints – also known as All Saints Day – would fall on the first day of November.

The evening before All Saints Day would, of course, be called All Hallows Eve. Now it’s known as Halloween. Over time, it slowly evolved into the spooky festival we know today and its association with costume parties, pranks, carving pumpkins and more.

Let’s dive deeper into some of the Halloween traditions we grew up with.

Carving Jack-o’-lanterns

Young playful girl with her Halloween jack-o'-lantern

These orange, bulbous pumpkins are a classic sign that the Halloween season has arrived. But did you know that instead of pumpkins, people used to carve creepy faces on turnips?

It’s a bit of a long story of how this whole thing came about. But we’ll try our best to explain.

There was once a man named “Stingy Jack”. A mischievous, sly guy who invited the Devil for a drink. True to his name, he was too stingy to pay for his drink. Stingy Jack then convinced the Devil to transform itself into a coin, which would allow Stingy Jack to pay for his drink.

The Devil was nice enough to do just that. It turned itself into a coin. But Stingy Jack pulled a prick move and kept the money for himself. He put the coin into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing itself back to its true form.

Eventually, Stingy Jack freed the Devil on the condition that the Devil could not claim his soul when he died. The Devil obliged. This went on several more times until Stingy Jack finally died.

As one could imagine, the gates of heaven would not open for a crook such as Stingy Jack. But the Devil couldn’t take his soul either. What the Devil did was send Stingy Jack off into the cold, dark night with only a burning coal to light his way.

The coal was placed in a carved-out turnip and Stingy Jack began to roam the Earth. His ghostly being would later be known as Jack of the Lantern, and later, Jack O’ Lantern!

Later, people began to carve their own Jack O’ Lanterns to deter Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits. At this point, it was still all turnips. That is until the people found out that pumpkins make the perfect Jack O’ Lanterns.

Wearing scary costumes to scare away ghosts

Ghost costume for Halloween party

Are ghosts afraid of other ghosts? That’s what the Celtic people believed. They got dressed up in creepy costumes in hopes of warding off ghosts. We’re not sure if it worked, though.

Today, Halloween costumes aren’t just limited to being spooky anymore. It’s just about having fun.

Knock knock, trick or treat!

Little children trick or treating on Halloween

Why do kids wear scary costumes and knock on doors for candy? There are a few theories of how trick-or-treating came about.

According to the first theory, the Celtic people left food out to appease the spirits who roamed the Earth at night. Over time, people began to roleplay as spirits and donned ghostly outfits in exchange for some food and drinks.

The second theory is that the poor would visit the houses of their wealthier neighbors to get pastries called ‘soul cakes’ in exchange for blessings upon their dead relatives. This practice was also known as ‘souling’. How cool is that?

The third theory was said that trick-or-treating came from something called ‘belsnickelling’, where German-American children would disguise themselves in costumes and ask the adults to identify them. If no one could correctly identify them, the children were given treats as a prize.

Apple bobbing

Red apples in water close up

Instead of spirits and ghosts, the origin of apple bobbing is a little more rooted in love and romance - completely unrelated to Halloween whatsoever.

Apple bobbing was originally a courting ritual popular among younger ladies and their potential suitors. In a large container of water and floating apples, each apple was assigned to a male.

Using only their mouth, the girl would then bob for an apple that belonged to the person she had an interest in. If she succeeds on her first try, it means that they are destined to be together. If she needs a few more tries, it means that they will have a relationship, but it will not last.

Black, orange and purple decorations

Swiss shepherd dog in hat with halloween pumpkin

The two colors most associated with Halloween are none other than black and orange. Why? Orange symbolized the warmth of fall and the last of the harvest season, while black best represented the cold winter, darkness, and death.

But purple is the lesser-noticed color of Halloween. The thing about purple is that it’s almost always associated with spirituality and all things mystical. This means it is a perfect symbolic color for a festival with roots in the ancient history of spirits, heaven and hell.

Happy Halloween!

What do you think? Were these facts and origin stories new to you? Are you spooked or is your tolerance for creepiness much higher?

Anyway, we hope you enjoy a hauntingly good time full of all things ghostly this Halloween.

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