When you’re putting in vampire fangs or zipping yourself into a furry gorilla suit, do you ever stop to wonder why we actually do this every October?
Oh hey, I’m just dressing up like a Gorilla.
As it turns out Halloween is a tradition that has its roots in…Ireland! The October 31st holiday has been linked with the Celtic Festival called Samhain, meaning “summer’s end” in Old Irish. Samhain was one of the most important days on the medieval Gaelic calendar, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter on November 1st. It was believed that at this time of year, souls of the dead came back to roam the Earth, and to keep these roaming spirits at bay, the Celts would leave wine and food at their doorsteps. In the 8th century, the Catholic church changed Samhain to All Hallow’s Day, and October 31st became All Hallow’s Eve, eventually evolving into “Halloween.”
Even the Jack O’ Lantern can be traced back to Ireland, specifically to an Irish folktale about a man named “Stingy Jack.” According to legend, Stingy Jack tricked the devil by convincing him to turn himself into a coin to be used to pay for the drinks the two were having together. Once the devil had obliged, Stingy Jack held on to the devil-turned-coin in his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the devil from returning to his original form. Jack only freed the devil on the condition that the devil would not claim his soul. When Jack died he was refused entry to Heaven and the devil kept his word, denying him entry to Hell as well, and leaving him in the night with a piece of burning coal. Jack used the coal to light his way by putting it in inside a turnip. He’s been wandering the land ever since, thus earning the name Jack of the Lantern. HE’S STILL OUT THERE. Evidence below.
Hi, I’m Jack. Jack Lantern.
It became a tradition to carve scary faces into turnips and potatoes and place them in windows to keep Stingy Jack away. Irish immigration in the 19th century brought this tradition to the United States, and we’ve been carving pumpkins (much easier than turnips) ever since!
And it’s totally safe…
And trick or treating? Well, that of course is an evolved adaptation of souling. During the middle ages in Ireland and England, wine and “soul cakes” were left outside on the night of All Hallow’s Eve as an offering to the dead. The next day, it became practice for children, especially those who were poor, to go begging door to door for a cake in exchange for a prayer for the dead.
And now we’re just greedy and want candy! Trick or treat! (Treats do NOT include fruit of any kind, toothbrushes, or pennies).