So, you think you know everything there is about Halloween and the traditions that surround it? Well, maybe. Or maybe not.
Here are a few things that might surprise you:
- Pumpkins are fruit.
Who knew? Pumpkins are a type of squash, and technically, all squashes are fruits, in that their flesh surrounds their seeds, just like apples, pears and oranges, and yes, tomatoes and avocados.
So, what makes a vegetable a vegetable? Think leaves (lettuce or greens), roots, bulbs and tubers (carrots, onions and potatoes), stems (wild rice, celery and asparagus) and flowers (broccoli and cauliflower).
- The first jack ‘o lanterns weren’t pumpkins.
The Irish introduced the tradition of carving jack o’ lanterns to the new world, but pumpkins didn’t exist in Ireland. Over there, they carved turnips for All Hallows Eve, putting a glowing ember inside to ward off evil spirits. Legend has it that it all started with Stingy Jack, an Irish drunk who tried to bargain with the devil and now roams the earth with only a hollowed turnip to light his way.
- The word Halloween comes from All Saints Eve.
To hallow means “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate” (as in, “Hallowed be thy name.”). Saint is synonymous with the noun form of hallow. Halloween is the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs and all the faithful departed.
- Similar to other celebrations, experts disagree on whether Halloween began as a pagan ritual later Christianized, or whether it started with Christians to begin with.
- Wearing costumes dates to an ancient Celtic tradition.
During the Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced sauwen), people celebrated the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, the darker half of the year. The Celts believed this is the time of year when the barriers between the earth and spirit worlds become thin, and spirits roam among us. Stories have it that people wore costumes during Samhain to fool spirits into thinking humans were one of them. That’s one story, anyway.
- Trick-or-treating began as poor children begging.
During Samhain in medieval Europe, poor children would go door-to-door begging for food and money. If they received a “treat,” the children would pray for the souls of the household’s departed in exchange. Later, the children also sang songs, told jokes or gave other performances for their treats instead of just prayers.
Single women, it’s said, would do “tricks,” such as throwing an apple peel, to discover their future husband’s initials.
- Candy was first handed out in the ‘20s.
Before the age of mass-produced sweets, trick-or-treating children were given a pastry called a soul cake, made with spices and raisins, and stamped with a cross symbolizing a soul being saved from Purgatory.
- A quarter of all the candy sold in the U.S. is sold for Halloween.
- Candy corn has been around for about 140 years.
Supposedly, it was invented by a guy named George Renninger from the Wunderlee Candy Company in the 1880s. Its main ingredients are sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax, artificial coloring and binders. Yum.
- Bobbing for apples dates to the Roman invasion of Great Britain.
Romans brought apple trees with them representing Pomona, the goddess of fruitful abundance. Young unmarried women would try to get a bite of an apple suspended in the air or in a pool of water. The first one to get a bite would be the next woman married. That’s the story, anyway. These days, trying to get an apple out of a tub of water using only your teeth is a game played at children’s Halloween parties.
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