Ever wonder why we have some Halloween traditions and what they mean? Here we have 13 Halloween traditions explained for you. Halloween is a lot more than just costumes and candy. Halloween dates back 2,000 years to pagan beliefs, with the Celtic New Year called Samhain (meaning “summer’s end” in Gaelic). Read more about the history of Halloween and the origin of Halloween. Jack O’Lanterns originate from Irish folklore. Read below how spiders, witches, costumes, scarecrows, and many others became popular Halloween traditions.
Black cats were associated with familiars, supernatural beings sent by The Devil/demons to help witches, especially during the witch hunts and witch trials in the Dark Ages.
Bats were also deemed familiars to witches. The Halloween saying is that if a bat is seen circling a house three times, someone living in that house will die soon, according to Medieval folklore.
Ancient folklore states that witches are around if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is entirely consumed by the flame.
An ancient pagan goddess referred to as "the crone", "the old one", and "Earth Mother" symbolized wisdom, change, and the changing of the seasons in Samhain times. From her, we get the typical stereotype for all witches: an old lady with a pointy black hat, warts on her nose, hairy chain, stirring a magic cauldron, and hideously repulsing.
The pagan Celts believed that the magic cauldron was stirred by "the crone" and it held the souls of the dead. Older souls would wait in the cauldron to be reborn while newer souls replenished the cauldron.
Costumes on Halloween were said to disguise ghosts visiting the living during Samhain, the time when the dead could visit the living, asking for food and money. Refusing the request could get you cursed. Others believed that living people dressing up as monsters protected them from monsters breaking through the veil on Samhain/Halloween.
Scholars/researchers believe that scarecrows came from the times when men were sacrificed to appease ancient gods for a great harvest.
Orange and Black
Traditional Halloween colors, orange and black, symbolize two different things. Orange symbolized the crops and changing leaves while black symbolized the death of summer.
Carving Pumpkins - Jack O’Lanterns
Carving pumpkins and the Jack O’Lantern comes from Celtic folklore and Jack, who managed to trick the Devil resulting in him not being allowed into heaven and hell. Jack’s lost soul would wonder purgatory in darkness seeking a light for his lost soul. Jack was clever and created a lantern from a turnip and a burning coal that the devil gave him. In this tradition, a Jack O’Lantern is placed outside to guide lost spirits home.
Samhain and the Roman festival, honoring the goddess of fruit trees, Pamona, was very close and merged with the Samhain festival. The apple symbolized Pamona and became a part of the Halloween tradition and a popular Halloween treat.
Bobbing for Apples
Another mention of apples but this time in a playful way. The first person to grab an apple was said to be the first to marry. Those who grabbed an apple on their first try would experience true love while those who required multiple attempts would stumble along the way in their love life. A fun game used as a form of fortune-telling on Halloween night.
Halloween Mischief - Halloween Tricks
Ancient Celts celebrated Halloween night with trickery and pranks. Somewhere around the Great Depression in the 1920’s - 1930’s, Halloween got crueler, and acts of vandalism were frequent. These acts gave birth to modern Halloween trick-or-treat with Adults giving out candy to avert the outcome of Halloween mischief.
In medieval times and the witch hunts, many accused witches were old women who needed walking sticks, some being wooden broomsticks. Engish folklore details that during the nighttime and witch ceremonies, witches rubbed a potion on their bodies hat caused numbness, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, and confusion. These effects together made the witches feel like they were flying.