Halloween is a time for candy, costumes and the Charlie Brown cartoon special, but how did it become this way? Why are children and teens encouraged to run around the neighborhood threatening tricks? Jack-o’-lanterns are a pretty strange concept, but historically, strangers giving you candy was supposed to be a bad thing. Keep reading to discover 3 weird facts about Halloween that you probably didn’t know.
You may already think that Halloween is a pretty bizarre holiday: What other celebration could inspire both a Sexy Olaf costume and spooky drones? That said, sexy snowmen can’t hold a candle to Halloween’s truly bizarre origins (even if that’s just because a snowman would melt if it held a candle). Chances are you really have no idea just how weird Halloween truly is, so here are eight facts to fix that…
1. Originally, you had to dance for your “treat.”
Most experts trace trick-or-treating to the European practice of “mumming,” or “guysing,”in which costume-wearing participants would go door-to-door performing choreographed dances, songs and plays in exchange for treats. According to Elizabeth Pleck’s “Celebrating The Family,” the tradition cropped up in America, where it would often take place on Thanksgiving.
In some early versions of trick-or-treating, men paraded door-to-door, and boys often followed, begging for coins. Most of these early trick-or-treaters were poor and actually needed the money, but wealthy children also joined in the fun. Door-to-door “begging” was mostly stopped in the 1930s, but re-emerged later in the century to distract kids from pulling Halloween pranks.
2. Halloween is more Irish than St. Patrick’s Day.
Halloween’s origins come from a Celtic festival for the dead called “Samhain.” Celts believed the ghosts of the dead roamed Earth on this holiday, so people would dress in costumes and leave “treats” out on their front doors to appease the roaming spirits. Granted, the Celts were not solely based in Ireland when these customs started taking shape around the first century B.C., but as will be talked about more in a later section, the Irish Celts were the ones who invented the jack-o’-lantern. This Halloween prototype was eventually disrupted and adapted by Christian missionaries into celebrations closer to what we celebrate today, including partly by the not-Irish St. Patrick, whose work was later mostly recognized by Americans.
“St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented in America by Irish-Americans,” said Philip Freeman, a classics professor at Luther College in Iowa. According to National Geographic, the holiday was only a “minor religious holiday” until the 1970s in Ireland. So it’s not all that Irish. And for what it’s worth, St. Patrick probably wasn’t Irish himself, his color was a type of blue, not green, and that story about banishing snakes is actually just a metaphor for his triumph over Irish paganism. The type of paganism that invented Halloween.
3. Some animal shelters won’t allow the adoption of black cats around Halloween for fear they’ll be sacrificed.
It’s unclear whether black cats are actually sacrificed around Halloween, but various animal shelters refuse to let people adopt these cats in the lead-up to the holiday. Lynda Garibaldi, director of The Cats’ Cradle in Morganton, North Carolina, told The Huffington Post that the shelter “does not adopt out black cats during the month of October … because of superstition and the concern that the wrong people (who might harm them) might adopt them.”
This type of ban is starting to wane, however. When reached for comment, Emily Weiss, vice president of Shelter Research and Development at the ASPCA, said, “Years ago, this used to be pretty common — that shelters would not adopt out cats during Halloween for fear of something horrible happening to the cats, but we don’t hear too much anymore. And many, many shelters are actually [holding] a special black cat promotion around the holiday.”
ASPCA provided this list of a few of the black cat adoption promotions that have been tied to the holiday. As Weiss put it, “Most people who go to shelters to adopt a pet are not going to adopt a pet to sacrifice into ritual.”
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Thanks for reading about 3 weird Halloween facts.