13 Halloween Superstitions & Traditions
Some Halloween customs, including carving Jack-o’-lanterns, are based on Irish folklore and have been carried on throughout the centuries, while others, like candy corn, are more modern Halloween add-ons.
Frequently used as symbols of bad luck, black cats linked to many Halloween decorations. The black cat’s poor reputation dates back to the Dark Ages when witch hunts were trivial. Aged, lonely girls were frequently accused of witchcraft, and their pet cats were said to be their “familiars,” or demonic creatures that were given to them by the demon.
Another medieval myth told that Satan turned himself into a cat when socializing with witches. But now, black cats are not interchangeable with bad luck and mischief everywhere — in Ireland, Scotland and England, it is considered good luck for a black cat to cross your path.
An enjoyable fall doing, carving Jack-o’-lanterns really has its origins in a scary, terrible fable. Celtic folklore tells the story of a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil, but his trickery resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of paradise and hell after he passed away. Having no choice but to roam around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal the demon had thrown him from hell.
Jack used the lantern to direct his lost soul; as such, the Celts believed that putting Jack-o’-lanterns outside would help direct lost spirits house when they roam the streets on Halloween. Initially made using a hollowed-out turnip with a little candle inside, Jack-o’-lanterns’ frightening carved faces additionally functioned to scare evil spirits away. When the Irish potato famine of 1846 driven Irish families to flee to North America, the convention came with them. Since turnips were difficult to come by in the states at the time, pumpkins were used as a replacement.
Medieval folklore additionally described bats as witches’ familiar, and finding a bat on Halloween was regarded as rather an ominous signal. One myth was that if a bat was seen flying around one’s house three times, it meant that someone in that house would shortly depart. Another myth was that if a bat flew into your house on Halloween, it was a signal your house was haunted because ghosts had let the bat in.
A common source of anxiety, spiders makes for creepy, crawly Halloween raw materials. They join the ranks of bats and black cats in folklore as being bad companies of witches during medieval times. One superstition held that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is consumed by the fire, witches are nearby. And if you see a spider on Halloween, goes another superstition, it means the spirit of a deceased loved one is watching over you.
The stereotypical picture of the haggard witch with a pointy black hat and warty nose stirring a magic potion in her cauldron really comes from a pagan goddess called “the crone,” who was honored during Samhain. The crone was also referred to as “the old one” and the “Earth mother,” who symbolized wisdom, change, and the turning of the seasons. Now, the type, all knowing old crone has morphed into the menacing, cackling ugly witch.
The pagan Celts believed that after departure, all souls went into the crone’s cauldron, which symbolized the Earth mother’s uterus. There, the souls expected reincarnation, as the goddess’ stirring allowed for new souls to enter the cauldron and old souls to be reborn. That picture of the cauldron of life has now been replaced by the steaming, bubbling, threatening brew.
The witch’s broomstick is another superstition that’s its origins in medieval myths. The aged, shy girls that were accused of witchcraft were generally poor and couldn’t manage horses, so they browsed through the woods on foot with assistance from walking sticks, which were occasionally replaced by sweepers.
English folklore tells that during nighttime services, witches rubbed a “flying” potion on their bodies, shut their eyes and felt as though they were flying. The hallucinogenic ointment, which caused numbness, rapid pulse, and confusion, gave them the delusion they were soaring through the skies.
Trick Or Treat in Costumes
In olden times, it was considered that during Samhain, the veil between our world and the spirit world was strongest and that the ghosts of the dead person could mingle with the living. The superstition was that the seeing ghosts could disguise themselves in human form, for example, a beggar, and knock on your door during Samhain asking for cash or food. If you turned them away empty handed, you risked receiving the wrath of the spirit and being cursed or haunted.
Another Celtic myth was that dressing up as a ghoul would deceive the evil spirits into believing that you were one of them so they wouldn’t attempt to take your spirit. In the U.S., trick or treating became a standard Halloween convention around the late 1950s, after it was brought over by Irish immigrants in the early 1900s.
The traditional Halloween colors of orange and black really come from the pagan celebration of fall and the crop, with orange symbolizing the colors of the harvests and turning leaves, while black marks the “departure” of summer and the changing season. Over time, green, purple and yellowish have also been introduced into the color scheme of Halloween decorations.
From some — specifically annoying teens — Halloween is, in addition, a time for neighborhood pranks. From egging and toilet-papering houses to smashing jack-o’-lanterns, “demon’s night” can be full of mischief and threat.
The early Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires, games, and comical pranks. By the 1920s and 30s, nevertheless, the parties became more rowdy, with rising acts of vandalism, perhaps because of the stress due to the Great Depression, according to Jack Santino’s “Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life” (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1994). To check the vandalism, adults started to hand out candies, reigniting the lost custom of trick or treating in costume in exchange for sweets. This successfully replaced most of the mischief components from Oct. 31 parties, so the troublemakers rather embraced Oct. 30 as their official nighttime to pull pranks and wreak havoc.
Candy apples are popular Halloween treats, and the sugary fruit on a stick was handed out during the early days of trick or treating in North America — before distress over unwrapped sweets became a problem. Today, candy apples can be covered in caramel or chocolate with nuts, together with in the classic, glossy reddish syrup.
The fusion of Celtic and Roman customs is behind Halloween’s candy apple custom. Samhain was around the time of the Roman holiday honoring Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees. The goddess is frequently symbolized by an apple, so the fruit became interchangeable with Samhain celebrations of the harvesting.
Bobbing for Apples
In ancient times, the apple was viewed as a holy fruit that could be used to forecast the future. Bobbing for apples is among the traditional games used for fortune telling on Halloween night. It was considered that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled pail without using their hands would be the first to marry.
If the bobber lucked out and caught an apple on the first attempt, it meant that they’d experience true love, while those who got an apple after many attempts would be fickle in their own amorous efforts. Another myth was that if a girl set her bobbed apple under her pillow on Halloween night, she’d dream about her future husband.
The sweet most interchangeable with Halloween, candy corn was devised in the late 1880s and started to be mass produced in the early 1900s. The initial procedure for making candy corn was cumbersome and time-consuming, as each color of syrup had to be heated up in big containers and carefully poured by hand into specially shaped forms.
But the yellow, orange and white sweet — meant to resemble a corn kernel — was a tremendous success and remains a popular part of Halloween to this day.
Have a spooktacular Halloween. Enjoy Trick or Treating!