Top 5 Origins of Halloween Traditions
It’s no secret that Halloween is my favorite time of year. Costumes, candy, parties, and all manner of responsibility and ethics thrown out the window. I love it. It’s also the one time of year that being considered insane is a good thing.
Seeing as Halloween is only a few days away, I figured this blog entry should shed light on some of the origins of our Halloween traditions.
*Warning* Johnny Red is in no way responsible for the damage done to your joyful perceptions of Halloween fun.
5. Trick or Treating
Oh yes, to be young again. Wandering the neighborhood, breathing the crisp fall air, dressed up in our Halloween costumes for a night of fun and candy collecting. It was the best time of the year for being a kid. Trick or Treating hasn’t changed that much since it’s Celtic origin. I guess the only difference is trick or treating was originally called “Souling”, and was originally a bit more…creepy.
During souling children would dress up in costumes, go door to door, beg for soul cakes, and when received would pray for the household’s dead relatives. I guess that could be fun?
Now the actual term “trick or treat” didn’t surface until the 1920’s.
The earliest known use in print of the term “trick or treat” appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta, Canada: Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.
We fast forward nearly a hundred years and trick or treating is now a national tradition. Capitalism has cashed in on it as well. Candy sales are the second highest during Halloween, second only to Christmas. Costumes are massed produced and sold in nearly every store. It’s become a cash cow for many corporations, and now the tables have been turned on the children who once upon a time took control of their neighborhoods and forced the adults to do their bidding.
Capitalism has also brought it’s own horrors to trick or treaters everywhere.
4. Haunted Houses, Apple Bobbing, Parties
Halloween is a great time to dress up, throw parties, purposefully scare the hell out of each other, and other things we wouldn’t do any other time of the year. But we do this as adults now. Wait a minute, wasn’t the tradition of Halloween centered around children? Are we, as adults, being selfish in turning Halloween into a more adult oriented holiday?
No we’re not because Halloween was originally a festival that adults took part in more than children. Yes, souling, or trick or treating is a children’s tradition, but that was only part of Halloween.
The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds.
The party game of apple bobbing was also done by adults as well. The origin of apple bobbing came from when single adults would gather around a bucket or tub of floating apples and try to be the first to grab an apple with their teeth. The belief was whoever managed to grab the first apple would be the next one to be married.
Apple bobbing has lost it’s popularity in recent years as the idea of sticking your face into a tub of snot and spit filled water isn’t very appealing.
Many people also believed that during Halloween the veil to the next world was briefly lifted. People felt that during this time you might be able to glimpse the future. Women would use mirrors and ask that the image of their future spouse to appear in it.
Haunted houses and haunted hay rides have also risen in popularity and become traditions during Halloween. Haunted houses probably go far back as when people first believed that the departed spirits of the dead could return to familar grounds. Nowadays it’s probably explained through carbon monoxide leaks.
Nevertheless simulating a haunted house to scare the bejezus out of each other has caught on. In fact they are very profitable. Over twelve million people a year visit simulated haunted houses.
Now you would think that uptight religious folks would be outraged over our traditional Halloween practices. Well apparently they are. In fact one church wasn’t content in just preaching about the evils of the Halloween holiday, no they took it one step further and created their own haunted house.
A growing Halloween tradition among Evangelical Christians is to provide a type of horror tableau which promotes public awareness of conservative Christian concerns. In Arvida, CO, the Abundant Life Christian Center built a haunted house for Halloween 1997. It includes simulations of:
|a bloody abortion in progress,|
|a ritual human sacrifice by a Satanic cult,|
|a teen committing suicide,|
|the funeral of a homosexual AIDS victim, and|
|a live action scene of a date rape|
3. The Jack ‘O Lantern
Pumpkin carving is standard Halloween tradition. But it wasn’t always so. In fact it wasn’t until modern times that pumpkins themselves were even used for carving. Yet again the tradition of carving vegatables goes back to old Ireland. But back then they didn’t use pumpkins. No, no, those would be too easy to carve out. They used turnips instead.
The tradition comes from the legend of Stingy Jack. The folktale says that a man named Jack who was the greediest man alive wouldn’t even go to hell with the devil when his number was up. Instead he tricked the devil to climb a tree, and while up there he carved a cross into the tree and the devil couldn’t get down.
The devil was so angry with Jack that he denied him entrance to hell. And since Jack wasn’t allowed in heaven either, he wanders the world with nothing but a carved out turnip lantern to keep him company.
Nowadays carving pumpkins has become almost an art form during Halloween. Every year we see more and more creative designs from the traditional Jack ‘O Lantern. For example:
Let’s see…we also have this.
Ohhh my favorite part of Halloween. An excuse to dress up in horrifying costumes for a night of make believe. Well I suppose you could do that any night of the year, but Halloween is the only night you won’t gain an unwelcome reputation in doing so. Dressing in costumes has become a children’s tradition and sadly the horror elements seem to have faded.
Originally Halloween costumes were suppose to imitate the dead, supernatural beings, and demonic creatures. Only dressing in a costume would keep you safe from the otherworldly hordes crossing the veil into our world looking to possess, and/or drag us back to the other side.
So traditional Celtic costumes looked more like this:
Yes, most of the fright is missing from costumes nowadays. But one costume has reigned supreme for decades and is still the number one selling costume of all time. The Witch!
So seeing as the Witch is the best selling Halloween costume I decided to do a little research on the origin of the Witch. And after doing that research I decided some things should just not be discovered. Hold on to your hats folks because here is the origin of the Witch and her broomstick.
They were old mad women who put hallucinogenic oils on the end of their broomsticks and put them in their vaginas.
I’M SORRY! I’M SO SORRY!
Yes, according to the research that’s where the origin of the Witch and her broomstick comes from. In fact this was known as far back as 1470.
“But the vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.”
Well all I can say is thank God those days are over. Or are they??
1. Halloween Itself
Halloween itself originated in Old Ireland and was called Samhain. Much of what went on during the celebration of Samhain has already been covered in the previous entries. But there is one thing I want to make clear to everyone. They BELIEVED in all this stuff. We celebrate Halloween because we know it’s a fun and lighthearted time. But none of us today actually believe we have to dress up in costumes to ward off evil spirits. Well I’m guessing the majority of us do not believe that.
But imagine being a child in Old Ireland. You’re fast asleep, dreaming of…I don’t know…Old Ireland things, when all of a sudden your parents burst in your room!
You ask your parents why you have to do such a thing? They reply, “Because demons, spirits, and our dead ancestors are coming through the veil…tonight!!”
“Jesus Christ on a stick father!! What are we going to do?!”
“Don’t worry son, if we imitate the monsters and our dead decaying relatives they may leave us alone! They may!”
“I’m scared father!”
“I’m scared too son! Now get your sister and go door to door and beg for cakes or bread to satisfy the dead! Also pray outside each house for the homeowners dead relatives as well!”
“What are you going to do father?!”
“Father this sounds crazy!”
“Shut up son! Oh I almost forgot! The evil ones won’t be attracted to the bonfire if there is any other lit fire in town! Now put out that fire in the fireplace!”
“Father it’s fucking Autumn! It’s going to be freezing in here!”
“Son, trust the grown ups! We know what we are doing! Now where is that cow?”
“What in the hell are you talking about?!”
“We have to slaughter livestock and throw the bones in the bonfire! Clearly it’s what we have to do!”
“Alright forget the livestock! We’ll build another bonfire next to the first one and then each of us will walk between them to cleanse ourselves!”
“Father I am NOT walking through FIRE!”
“Son, it’s the only way!”
“What do you mean it’s working? Those people are dead now Father!”
“Exactly! If they were evil spirits then the fire wouldn’t have harmed them!”
“I can’t even put into words how fucking retarded this is! Where did you hear all of this Father?! Who told you we had to do these things?!”
“Well the old woman in the hills did.”
“The one with the cauldron?”
“The same one who cackles all night and walks around with that smelly broomstick?”
“Yes, the very one!”
“Fuck you guys, I’m going back to bed.”
And that my friends is the story of Halloween!
*Warning* Believing and repeating anything Johnny Red tells you can cause serious damage to your reputation. Johnny Red exaggerates and twists the truth for his own self-amusement.
Don’t forget everyone who lives in the Northern Maine area that Johnny Red will be throwing his annual Halloween Costume Party this Saturday night! Party starts at 7 p.m. and Costumes are mandatory. If you show up without a costume then my hired muscle will gladly tune you up at the entrance, toss your broken body inside, and claim you came dressed as mugging victims.
Oh and since I promised Max and Dominic strippers, then here you go!
John Michael Gagnon…boo!…Johnny Red
Posted on October 29, 2009, in Top 5's and tagged broomstick, carved turnip, glenn beck douchebag, halloween, happy halloween, jack o' lantern, nimbus 2000, origin of the witch, souling, stingy jack, trick 'r treat, zombie strippers. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.