Behind the scenes of Halloween
Halloween is a standout date on many people’s calendars, but the facts behind its superstitions and trends tend to get overshadowed by mounds of candy and plastic Jack-O-Lanterns. Do you actually know the origins of this spooky celebration? How about the reasons behind popular superstitions? Here are some interesting facts that you and your friends may not know about different aspects of this oh-so-hallowed day.
The history of Halloween
Halloween, which falls on the last day of the Celtic calendar, was originally a pagan holiday that honored the dead. It used to be referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back 2000 years.
Trick or treating
To appease evil spirits like ghosts, goblins and demons, the Celts would build bonfires to light a way for the spirits to find their way into the living world. They would also hold a huge feast, making sure to leave food and treats out for the spirits. If no offerings were made, the spirits would play evil “tricks” on the living.
Orange and black
The colors orange and black became tied to Halloween because of supernatural rituals of the occult. These rituals included events like commemorative masses of the dead, held in November. Orange, unbleached beeswax candles were used in this ceremony, and the ceremonial caskets were covered in black cloths. These days, the orange and black color scheme can be found gracing everything from cookies to earrings.
Bloody Mary is a ghost or witch that is said to appear in a mirror when her name is called. Though she will reportedly come if you call her name anywhere from three to 100 times, 13 times seems to be the most popular choice. To summon her, ghost-seekers must be in a darkened room lit only by a candle. Accounts of the real-life Mary vary widely. Most accounts say that Bloody Mary refers to Mary Worth, who was horribly disfigured in a car crash, but others believe that she was a witch burned at the stake who returns for revenge. Still other believers say that Mary Worth was a child-murderer or possibly the English Queen Mary I, whose life was plagued by miscarriages and false pregnancies and whose reign was marked by religious persecution.
“If one breaks a mirror, one will have bad luck for seven years.”
This superstition harks back to an ancient myth that the image in a mirror was actually a person’s soul. A broken mirror thus represented the soul being separated from the body. In order to break the spell and prevent misfortune, one must wait seven hours (one hour for each year of bad luck) before picking up the pieces of a broken mirror and burying them outside in the moonlight.
“It is bad luck to walk under a ladder.”
Before the gallows existed, criminals were hung from the top rung of a ladder and their spirits were believed to linger underneath. It is supposed to be bad luck to walk underneath a ladder because to do so one must pass through the triangle of evil ghosts and spirits.
“Sparrows are bad luck.”
Black sparrows are thought to carry the souls of the dead, so killing a sparrow is believed to bring bad luck.
There are, of course, many versions and explanations for all of these superstitions and mysteries. Having given some of the mystical and supernatural aspects of Halloween, I will leave you with one fun (and helpful) Saint Louis fact: in St. Louis-and only St. Louis-trick-or-treaters are actually expected to tell a joke or do a trick to receive candy.
So pick your joke, get some candy and have a happy Halloween!
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