Halloween falls on 31st October and is a time when trick or treaters fill the streets, and shops are full of fancy dress. As with every ancient festival, it has been commercialised and we're guilty of this, as we love it so much (check out our Halloween curiosities), but we must not forget the true meaning of Halloween. Here are 10 interesting facts about this spooky time of year.
1. This time of year is a time of huge celebration in the pagan calendar when they celebrate Samhain (Sow-in); a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. On Samhain our deceased loved ones and ancestors are honoured and remembered. It is when the veil between the worlds is at it's thinnest, nature's cycle is complete and ready to be born again.
2. The word 'Halloween' comes from All Hallows Eve which is the day before the Christian All Hallows’ Day also known as All Saints Day (November 1st). The Pope designated November 1 as a time to honour the saints and martyrs in a bid to move attention away from pagan traditions, even though it was very similar to Samhain in its celebrations.
3. In medieval times people went 'Souling', it is thought this is where trick-or-treating comes from. On Hallowmas (November 1), the poor would go door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for soul cakes.
4. The first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips. Immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which is much softer, much larger, thus making it easier to carve.
5. Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween
6. Why are black and orange typically associated with Halloween? Well orange is a symbol of strength and endurance and, along with brown and gold, stands for the harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder about Halloween's pagan meaning.
9. The idea behind fancy dress at Halloween comes from an ancient Celtic tradition where local people would disguise themselves as ghouls, to try and escape the attention of the real spirits on the loose at Samhain.
10. Up until the 19th century, Halloween bonfires were used for divination in parts of Scotland, Wales and Brittany. When the fire died down, a ring of stones would be laid in the ashes, one for each person. In the morning, if any stone was mislaid it was said that the person it represented would not live out the year.