How do you feel about Halloween? Do you turn off the lights, close your curtains and hope that no one rings your doorbell? Or do you prefer to carve creative pumpkins, go full makeup, costume and party the night away?
Whatever your choice, Halloween is growing in popularity and it looks like it’s here to stay.
What is Halloween?
Halloween is observed in several countries across the world on the eve of All Saints’ Day. It is part of a three-day Celtic celebration where people pray for the deceased. The holiday started in the 11th century and was called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Samhain marked the end of summer and the start of winter, when the sun begins its seasonal ‘death’. The cold season also increased the risk of mortality. No wonder the Celts believed that the 31st October blurred the boundaries between the dead and the living.
In 2018, Halloween is more cosy celebration. Today, you’re much more likely to see children going door-to-door and trick or treating. They ask their neighbours for a treat, if they don’t receive one, their neighbour might be in for a trick! Teenagers and adults tend to celebrate All Hallows Eve by dressing up and partying, decorating their homes and carving pumpkins. In the US its popularity is second only to Christmas!
And although it’s popularity across Europe isn’t yet as great, it’s on the rise. Let’s look at this way – where are you more likely to find old castles or mansion houses where you can host a spooky party or a ghost walk. Europe of course…
We put together our top 10 spooktacular Halloween facts to get you in a ghoulish mood.
Why do we carve pumpkins anyway?
Many people refer to a carved pumpkin as a ‘jack-o-lantern’ which means ‘man with a lantern’. The name comes from an old Irish story about a man called Stingy Jack. Jack was a trickster, and when he died, he had to walk the Earth with just a burning piece of coal and a carved-out turnip to light his way. Pumpkins became the popular lantern in the mid 19th century due to the sheer volume available in the US. Originally, it was not pumpkins which were carved, but turnips. On All Hallows Eve children would create their own Jack O’Lanterns and carry them around the streets, visiting their neighbours in order to remember the dead.
In 2014 the top pumpkin-producing states in America were Illinois, California, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. They each produced over 1.31 billion pounds of pumpkins. Better get carving!
Boston, in the US, holds the record for the most Jack O’Lanterns lit at once (30,128).
Orange and black
Orange and black have long since been the colours associated with Halloween. The orange represents autumn, the harvest and the changing of the leaves. The black represents death, darkness and all things ghostly.
Bats, cats and all things spooky
Many of the traditional symbols we see (and even dress up as) at Halloween have close ties to history and Wiccans (Pagan witchcraft). Bats are common in Halloween decorations due to their links with the Samhain bonfires. On All Hallow’s Eve, a bonfire would burn as part of the celebration and this would attract many bats.
Trick or treat
The approximate number of trick or treaters out on Halloween is thought to be more than 40 million! Let’s hope they don’t all turn up to your front door at once.
“What’s that?” We hear you cry! Well, Samhainophobia is used to describe an immense fear of Halloween. Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night?
Owls often have links to wizards, witchcraft and anything spooky. This is because in medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches. If someone heard an owl’s call, it meant someone was going to die very soon. Uh oh!
Looking for a witch
If you want to bump into a witch on All Hallow’s Eve, then step outside with your clothes on inside out and walk backwards. Legend has it that you will bump into a witch!
A Halloween joke
OK, so it’s not a fact… or is it?
What holiday is after Halloween on Dracula’s calendar? Fangs-giving.
If you’d like to learn more about festivals celebrated in English speaking countries, check out our English classes. Not only will you have the opportunity to learn grammar, take part in speaking activities, and read interesting texts, but you can also ask our native speaking teachers questions about life and holidays in their country.