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Did trick-or-treating start in the Middle Ages? What did the Irish carve to scare demons away? And how many razor blades are found in apples every Halloween?
You may be surprised by what you do (and don’t!) know about Halloween. Today we peel back the layers to find out what’s real, and what’s just so much hocus-pocus.
Halloween is shrouded (oh yes we did go there) in myth. Test yourself with these 8 spooky questions:
Fact or Fiction? Halloween was originally a Celtic holiday and was celebrated on October 31.
Fact…more or less. The ancient Celts celebrated the new year around today’s calendar reckoning of Oct. 31. (In pre-Christian times, the Celts obviously did not count calendar days in this way.)
The Celtic year was separated into two seasons, Summer and Winter. Summer’s end (Samhain, pronounced sow-een) was celebrated around our current reckoning of October 31. Bonfires, stories, rituals and sometimes the dissecting of sacrificed animals might all be included in this special night.
The Celts weren’t alone: most pre-Christian religions in areas of the globe that experience a hot v. cold season or seasons probably utilized this change of year for similar rites.
For more historic tidbits, see what The History Chanel has to say about the day here.
Fact or Fiction? Trick-or-treating is a historically modern Halloween custom which began in the early 1900s.
Fact. We know – you’ve heard of the Celts and offerings, and of Medieval beggars and soul cakes. All that is true, but historically, a “begging” night on Oct. 31 by children is much more recent.
Halloween began to pick up steam int he Americas in the late 19th century, largely through small home parties. Then the first decades of the 20th century, children began “begging” for treats, though not always on Halloween – according to author Betty Smith, kids delivered nasty tricks to miserly shopkeepers who refused to give up the goods on Election Day.
In the wake of much not always innocent mischief-making, including the setting of fires and other stunts, parents began organizing smaller gatherings. By the Baby Boom generation (just after World War II, trick-or-treating in costumes now available at stores had become official and was practiced across the United States.
Fact or Fiction? The Irish carved the first jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins.
Fiction. The first jack-o-lanterns, carved in Ireland ans Scotland, were actually made out of beets or, more usually, turnips. Children hollowed out the veggies, carved faces on them and placed candles inside tos care away evil spirits on Halloween night.
Once immigrants arrived in America, they found pumpkins more plentiful and easier to carve and used them instead.
Fact or Fiction? According to folklore, the jack-o’-lantern got his name from a man named Jack.
Fact. The tale of Jack of the Lantern, or Jack o’Lantern, involved a man who was so vile, the devil himself ejected Jack from hell. But the devil took pity on the poor (lost) soul and gave Jack an ember to carry around to light his way.
Some versions of the story tell of the devil chasing Jack’s soul and coming close to claiming it before finally becoming victorious. Jack laughingly got away every time – except the last.
Satan was at first triumphant, but when he found what he had on his hands, he tossed Jack back upward from hell to the surface of the earth. A wayward coal bounced up with him, and Jack scooped it up to light his way.
Halloween Fact or Fiction: Halloween is the top-selling candy day of the year.
Fiction. Although Halloween comes in a very tight second, Easter is the U.S.’s top candy money-making day, at $8.34 billion in 2017.
However, Halloween is still impressive in this area, at $8 billion. (We’ve heard rumors that $3 billion of those are pocketed away for the giver’s own pleasure after trick-or-treat hours are over, but we can’t quantify that. Now, excuse us while we raid the treat bowl.)
Fact or fiction? Chicago is home to the first Halloween community festival.
Fiction. Independence, Kansas lays claim to this title with their Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) festival, which premiered in 1918 and has been held at intervals since then.
In 1920, Anoka, Minnesota named itself “the Halloween capital of the world,” kicking off with a town-wide parade and celebration. The festival has been held every year since.
Fact or Fiction? Approximately 300 children visit the emergency room annually on or around Halloween due to a razor blade hidden inside fruit or candy.
Fiction. Although this gory image is a Halloween (here we go again) staple, only a handful of such reports have EVER been verified.
According to snopes.com, while pins, razor blades, objects that could produce choking, and other dangerous items have been found in Halloween candy, official investigations have only been able to verify 80 such reports since 1959. (That’s an average of just over one reported, verified incident per year across the United States.)
We still recommend safety, but the Halloween “pin in an apple” tradition has obviously gotten a creative boost, based on our natural inclination to fear strangers and protect children…both of which are good things.
Fact or fiction? Halloween was banned during World War II due to conservation efforts.
Fiction. While Americans rationed food and materials during World War II, an effort was made to celebrate Halloween during this difficult time. Adults got children in on “Conservation Day,” with salvaged paper the price of admission for Halloween parties. Inexpensive materials were used to craft hand-made, often quite inspired decorations.
The day might also feature parades showcasing Red Cross Units, Air Raid Wardens, and Auxiliary Police Units – all dressed up in Halloween costume finery. Contests were also held, with local merchants donating prizes.
After the war, Halloween went into full-swing with trick-or-treating, dress-up and parties…and the rest is history.