Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween: A Little History

The entire season of Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. Not just for the somewhat mild weather but also the changing colors of leaves...oh, and Halloween of course. As a child, Halloween meant one thing for me: candy, candy, candy. When I finally became old enough to run around and Trick-or-Treat, it became about that as well. As we grow we all hear the old wives tales, myths, supersitions, and beliefs revolving around Halloween. Some are designed simply to scare us, while others have an underlying meaning to keep us safe (razor blades in the Reeses, anyone?). Here are some less common facts and history behind October 31st you may not know!

What else is Halloween known as?
Samhain, All Hollows Eve, Feast of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Spirits Day, Devil's Day

Did You Know?
The original Jack-O-Lantern was actually a hollowed out turnip with a flame inside. It's name came from the story of an old Irish miser who could not go to Hell because he had played so many tricks on the Devil, and could not go to heaven because he was "too miserly", so he wanders the Earth for eternity.

Remember all the school events and parties around this time of year when we were children always tended to include a festive game of 'Bobbing for Apples'? In case you hadn't noticed, if you cut an apple in half, the seeds pods will form a pentagram, which is the pagan symbol for fertility. The game originated as a tradition of finding out who would marry next, depending on who bit into the apple.
Apparently, the Devil himself was a bit of a nut-fanatic and gatherer. Thus in Britain, on the night of Halloween, nuts were often used as magic charms.

Bad Luck!
Here's a new one! We all know about the bad luck that crossing a black cats path can cause, or what it could imply. But what about a white cat? Apparently, if you see a white cat over your left shoulder or on a new moon (where the moon is absent in the sky), you are doomed to an ill fate.

Did you know Halloween has a lot of Romantic Significance as well?
In Britain, it is thought that by leaving a sprig of Rosemary under a young womans pillow, she will dream of her one true love or future husband.
In some foreign cultures, it is believed that by placing a snail on a silver platter, the trail will spell out the first letter of your beloveds name.
A common southern tradition involves a cabbage and a young female. All the stories go by the rule that the woman must steal the cabbage, and upon her return (backwards, eyes closed, or some other variation), she will see the man she will wed.
Another superstition hailing from the Southern states is the belief that by mixing in a ring to a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes and allowing everyone to serve themselves, the person who receives the ring will be the next to marry.

And for an eeriely good read:
Looking for a scare? Take a bite out of
The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. One of my colleagues read it and has a new respect for dark corners. Not into vampires? How about zombies? World War Z by Max Brooks focuses on first person encounters with the latest zombie attacks.

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