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Fun Halloween Trivia Facts And The History Of Halloween And Customs And Traditions With Trivia Quiz Questions And Answers:
Halloween is celebrated every 31 October night. Children and young at heart adults love to dress up and go trick or treating, visiting neighbours, friends and family and tell scary ghost stories. Popular costumes include witches, skeletons, ghosts, vampires, Dracula, pirates, werewolfs, demons, Frankenstein, goblins and devils. Houses are decorated with carved and lit pumpkins, toy flying bats, black cats and fake spiders cobwebs.
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The History Of Halloween
It is thought that the celebration of Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic druids as far back as the year 700BC. The druids would celebrate the end of their summer harvest and honour their dead with a festival called Samhain. This comes from the Gaelic word "samhraidhreadh" which means summer's end. It was celebrated on the 31 October. Samhain was also the name of the Celtic Lord of the Dead.
The Celts thought that the dead would help their druids to make prophecies for future harvests.
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These early pagan rituals and ceremonies involved the lighting of bonfires and the marking of territories so that the dead and evil spirits could not cross and cause harm to the community. Food would be left out to attract dead relatives. The Celts wore masks to scare off evil spirits which is where the custom of dressing up in costume originates. The festivity of Halloween eventually spread in popularity from the UK to other countries like America, Australia and Canada. In modern times autumn is celebrated with the three festivals of Hallowe'en on the 31st October, All Saints' Day on the 1 November and All Souls Day on the 2nd of November when prayers are offered for the dead.
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In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church wanted to introduce a Christian festival and decided that the 1 November would be known as All Saint's or All Hallow's Day. The night before was known as the Eve of All Hallows which many soon called Hallow Evening or Hallow Even and this was, over the years, abbreviated to Hallow e'en. The words All Hallows comes from the Old English word Halig which means Holy.
All Saints' Day is a public holiday in many Roman Catholic countries and is celebrated with a church service and street parades. It was first celebrated when Christian leaders wanted to change the Pantheon Temple into a church. It was previously a temple that was full of statues of Roman Gods. The Catholic Church was keen to remove these from their Christian building. They turned the building into a church for all the Christian saints who had died for their Christian faith. About 200 years later the Pope held the first festival of All Saints Day and it has been celebrated since.
The 2nd of November is known as All Souls Day where the souls of the dead are honoured after the spirits and witches have flown and the Saints have been praised. It is not usually a formal holiday, but many Churches hold church services and masses where members of the congregation can meet and give prayers to dead relatives and friends. It is an important event in Mexico and the event is called the Day of the Dead.
All Souls Day is thought to have come about from a Christian who journeyed to city of Jerusalem where Jesus Christ died. He returned to his homeland by ship from which he was shipwrecked but was washed up safely onto an island. Here he met a man who could hear the cries of the dead coming from a rock. The Christian later told this story to the Abbot at a French Church in Cluny. The Abbot made the 2nd of November a day to pray for dead souls to help grant them peace. The festival soon spread to other parts of Europe and to Britain.
Other Names For Halloween
In Mexico All Saint's Day is known as The Night of the Dead and as midnight strikes to All Soul's Day it becomes The Day of the Dead.
In Ireland Halloween is also called Pooky Night after a mischievous spirit in Irish folklore called the puca.
Halloween in Australia is also known as Mischief Night or Danger Night. Some people call Halloween Devil's Night.
In the UK, particularly England, Halloween was sometimes called Nutcrack Night or Snap Apple Night because families would eat nuts and apples in front of the fire whilst telling stories.
Origins Of Trick Or Treating
During Samhain villagers would keep evil hungry spirits from entering their homes by leaving food tied to their door or left on their doorstep. This evolved into people dressing as spirits, ghosts, ghoulies, witches and goblins in the hope that these spirits would think they were alike and leave them alone.
This custom evolved to children dressing in costumes and masks to visit neighbouring houses to trick or treat. In areas like Scotland it is called guising. The word guising comes from a spoken variation of the word disguise or to go out disguising. If they perform door entertainment like singing a song, doing a dance or reciting a poem they are offered a treat which would be fruit, nuts or more commonly in modern times, money or sweets. Those households who do not give the guiser children a treat (or in some instances not enough of a treat!) would be subjected to a trick such as a rude joke or more nastily have eggs thrown at the house. In olden days adults would go out guising during Halloween and at other festivals like May Day or New Year in the hope of getting something to eat or drink or to take away gifts of food.
Children would not feel bad about such mischief because they thought they were entitled to one night of mischief a year. In modern days guising seems to extend onto bonfire night with children going from door to door asking for a penny for the guy. This guy would then traditionally be put on the top of the bonfire on the 5 November and money raised to buy fireworks.
Jack o' Lanterns were first made out of turnips in Ireland. Each turnip would be hollowed out and a scary face carved into the flesh of the turnip. A candle would then be placed inside the lantern and lit to illuminate the turnip and make the face even more frightening. The Jack o' Lanterns were used to scare away the evil spirits and dead people from homes. This carving of the lanterns originates from the tale of a mean old man called Jack who would not entertain people nor spend his money. He was refused entry into heaven because of his meanness and was punished by having to wander with a lantern to light his way until the day of judgement. He was unable to enter hell because of all the jokes he had played on the devil whilst alive.
Some European countries think that Jack o' Lanterns are the faces of evil people like murderers who walk the earth revisiting the scenes of the vicious crimes.
Other thoughts on the original Jack o' Lantern story is that Jack was a young lad who did not fear the devil and would meet him at a crossroads. One night Jack asked for seven years of full fun from the devil in exchange for Jack going down to hell with him at the end of the agreed period of time.
Seven years passed and Jack had his fun but then the devil came for him. Jack hoped to escape him by tricking the devil to reach for a shoe above a door. As the devil reached for the shoe Jack nailed the devil's hand to the wall. The devil could not escape and Jack made him promise to no longer come for him if he helped him to get the nail out.
The devil promised and did not return for Jack, not even when he died and his soul could not get into heaven and tried to enter hell. Instead the devil cast him out and threw a ball of fire after Jack. This caused Jack to form a glow and now he wanders the earth having fun with people. He particularly likes to lead people into sticky bogs by appearing as a light to follow to supposed safety. Many a folk have met an ill end in a bog because of Jack o' Lantern as he merrily dances through marshy, misty bogs.
The Jack o' Lanterns were made from turnips because this was a common and readily available winter crop in countries like Ireland and Scotland.
Jack o' Lanterns are now commonly carved out of pumpkins, which are much easier to carve. In the past potatoes and beets were also used. Pumpkins are much easier to carve and were first carved by Irish immigrants to America after the Potato Famines swept across Ireland and saw many families immigrate to the USA.
The Guinness World Records 2012 records the fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin as 20.1 seconds by David Finkle during a broadcast of the BBC One programme Countryfile on 7 October 2010.
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Bobbing For Apples
Bobbing for apples involves filling a bowl with water and placing apples in the water. They apples would happily bob about and children would take turns to put their head into the bowl, get wet and try and catch an apple or an apple stalk with their teeth. Though some prefer the more hygienic method of using a fork held by the teeth to spear the apple! Hands are not allowed to be used with the strict rules of the game.
The origins of bobbing for apples stems back to the ancient Celts who believed that Heaven would be full of apple trees full of fruit and flowers. The game is thought to date back to this belief and the Celtic festival Samhain which marked the beginning of winter on the 1 November.
It was popularised by the Romans who believed that apples were the symbol of love. They would play the game during their autumn festival of Pomona. The game continues to be played long after the Romans left Britain and is now played worldwide.
In Irish folklore the apple tree is seen as a gateway to the spirit world and all over Ireland apple trees would provide an abundance of fruit so they were used in divination games such as bobbing for apples.
A Halloween tradition using apples caught from bobbing involved girls extracting the pips from the apple core. They would give each pip the name of a male admirer and stick them to their faces. The last pip to fall off would be the most suitable husband.
In Scotland it is known as dooking or dookin' for apples. This translates from Old Scots to English as ducking for apples.
This is a Christian tradition that is not as common as it used to be. It originates back to the 9th Century. Neighbours would visit each others houses, sing a song and receive a soul cake. In exchange for the soul cake the person would pray for the soul of a deceased relative. Soul cakes originated from the ancient tradition of placing food and wine for ancestors spirits. The Christian Church invented soul cakes to bring Christianity to Halloween night and asked parishioners to give the cakes to each other and to poor people as a mark of Christian respect.
This Halloween game is not commonly played, but some areas in Scotland still keep the tradition alive. Scones are spread with treacle and then tied with a piece of thread. These are then tied to roof beams or a rope and are gently swung around. Children and fun loving adults would then try and take a bite of the treacle covered scones without using their hands. Results are much hilarity and sticky treacle covered faces!
A spider seen on Halloween is thought to be the spirit of a loved one watching over the person who finds the spider.
A cat superstition is that a black cat seen on Halloween night brings luck whilst seeing a white cat will bring you bad luck.
Some people consider that the occult and Halloween are linked and that it is one of the most powerful nights of the year for black magic. It is thought that the spiritual world can make contact with the physical world on Halloween night.
UK Halloween Traditions And Customs
In the olden days of open fires a young woman would place a hazelnut in front of the fire for each of her suitors. She would give each one the name of someone who she loved or wanted to marry. She would chant or sing the words "If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die." The one that popped would signify whom she would marry. This was known as Nutcracker Night. It originated from the belief that the devil was a nut gatherer.
A variation of this Halloween wedding tradition is for the engaged couple to each put a nut on the fire. If the nuts burned without too much noise then this would signify that they would be blessed with a happy marriage. However if the nuts made noise, spat or caused sparks to fly from the fire then this would signify that they would have a stormy marriage. In some areas of Scotland, particularly amongst farm families, they would burn two bits of straw rather than nuts.
A Scottish farmer tradition at Halloween was for young people to go into a field of kail (cabbage) blindfolded. Each person would pull up a stalk of kail and the physical shape of the kail would signify the shape of their future husband or wife. So someone who pulled up a long and slender stalk would marry someone long and slender in appearance.
Another marriage superstition is that a future spouse will appear over your shoulder if you slice an apple in half and eat it in front of a mirror by candlelight. Another apple superstition is that if you peel an apple on Halloween night, making sure it is all one strand, and throw it over your shoulder it will form the initial of the name of a future husband or wife.
Another wedding Halloween superstition is that a girl could put a sprig of the herb rosemary and a silver sixpence under her pillow to dream about her future husband.
Some superstitious young women would count the seeds from a stalk of oats on Halloween to predict how many children they would have.
Cats would be locked up in England because superstitious people thought that elves would ride on their backs on Halloween night. Some thought that witches owned black cats and that a black cat would have magical powers.
A large bowl of champit tatties (mashed potatoes) are made in some houses in Scotland. Small charms or objects are hidden in the bowl and when people eat (very carefully!) their portion their future can be foretold by the type of charm found. For example a coin means wealth will come, a wishbone signifies a wish to be granted and a thimble means a woman will remain a spinster.
Open fires are lit in some households that still have such fireplaces to make the house warm and welcoming so that the spirits of their ancestors will come home for the night.
It was thought unlucky to hear an owl hoot because some people thought that owls would swoop down and eat the souls of the dying. The superstition of turning your pockets inside out to prevent this originated from this belief.
Even snails did not escape Halloween superstition and trivia. Some thought that if you caught a snail on Halloween night and put it on a flat dish it would spell out the first letter of a sweetheart with its slime by the morning.
Other Countries Halloween Customs
In parts of Europe and South America people visit the graves of their loved ones and ancestors and place lit candles and greetings cards by the gravestones.
In Russia people will place lit candles beside the church altar in memory of their dead relatives.
In parts of Africa people hold a Dumb Supper where no one speaks during the meal. The idea is that the silence will encourage spirits to come to the table. It is also celebrated by some African Americans.
In Mexico women and children will take food to cemeteries at midnight of November the 1st to celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead. Candles are lit and huge skeleton statues are set up around the cemetery. The men and boys sing songs outside the gates of the cemetery. The food is first offered to the souls of the ancestors and as the day dawns to the 2nd of November the gathered people share the food. Graves are decorated with flowers, gifts, lanterns and lights to show respect for the dead. Soul cakes are eaten. These are baked into the shape of graves and decorated with edible toppings which look like flowers, wreaths, skeletons, tombstones and the words RIP. Celebrations of the Day of the Dead continue throughout the day with street parties and parades.
Various Halloween Trivia
The traditional Halloween colours are black because of death and darkness and orange because of the late summer and autumn harvest.
The Romans would honour Pomona, their Goddess of fruits, with a feast each year after their main harvest. There would be an abundance of fruit and nuts and during their invasion of Britain it was celebrated at the same time as Halloween and this is thought to be why fruit and nuts are popular at Halloween time.
Many horror films are released to the cinema or onto DVD at Halloween time. This includes the Halloween film series which stretched to 6 sequels. There is even a new film series with the son Doctor Sam Loomis using his late father's files from the Smith Grove Sanitorium to learn about serial killer Michael A. Myers who he suspects has returned to Haddonfield to commit murders.
The original Halloween film was filmed in 1978 by John Carpenter with a small budget of $300,000. It only took 21 days to shoot and money was so tight the actors had to wear their own clothes and the crew had to drive their own cars! The mask worn by the character Michael Myers was a cheap novelty copy of Captain Kirk from Start Trek which was spray painted white! John Carpenter saved even more money by writing, directing and producing the film, providing the music and even using his car in the film. Yet it is one of the most popular Halloween horror films that spawned sequels and copycats.
A custom from Scotland and Scottish Islands such as Orkney is Neepy Night. Children will carve a neep (Scots word for turnip) into a lantern and a candle is inserted into the hollowed out centre. This neep candle is then carried around the neighbourhood not on Halloween night of 31 October but on Guy Fawkes bonfire night on the 5 November. Children visit home to home on neepy night or pop night as it is sometimes called. Adults then drop a penny into the neep lantern when the kids ask for a penny for me pop. The neepy lantern is emptied after the kid has gone round friends and neighbours, the money counted up and kept and then the neep candle lantern is thrown onto the bonfire.
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