Halloween is right around the corner and I thought I’d write something about some of the history behind some of the customs and superstitions related to this holiday. In a nutshell, Halloween is celebrated every year on October 31st, and during this day, people dress up in different costumes, and they either give or get candy. But, what’s the origin of Halloween, and some of its traditions, you may ask? Well, let’s just dive in and explore the meaning of this spooky day, shall we!

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Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, has its roots in Paganism and it dates back to 2000 years. It marks the Celtic New Year, and it was originally called Samhain, which translates to ‘summer’s end’ in Gaelic.
Many Halloween traditions that are celebrated nowadays originated from Irish/Celtic folklore, including carving Jack-’o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, and wearing costumes.
In this article, I will talk about 9 Halloween traditions/superstitions and their origins.

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1. Jack-o’-lanterns: this tradition has its roots in a tragic fable from the Celtic folklore. The story begins with a drunken farmer, Jack, who tried to play a trick on the Devil. His mischief resulted in him being refused access to neither Heaven nor Hell, so he was cursed to roam aimlessly in the Purgatory. Jack had made a lantern using a turnip that he carved, and then place a burning lump of coal, which the Devil had tossed from Hell for him. Jack used the lantern to guide his lost soul.

Celts believed that putting jack-o’-lanterns outside their homes on Halloween would guide the lost souls.
Turnips were originally used as lanterns, but due to the 1846 Irish Potato Famine, many Irish families had moved to America. Turnips were very hard to find in the US, so pumpkins were used instead.

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2. Black Cats: the black cat in a Halloween decoration staple, but what’s its meaning? The black cat has long been a symbol of bad luck, and it was thought to be an evil omen that foretold the coming of death for anyone who came across it. This bad reputation dates back to the Dark Ages, and it was recurrent during the Witch-trials. A black cat was seen as witches’ familiars and demonic animals. In one medieval myth, people speculated that the Devil shapeshifted into a black cat and joined witches in their Witches Sabbaths. However, black cats are considered a good omen in Ireland, Scotland, and Britain.

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3. Bats: in medieval folklore, bats are also considered as witches’ familiars, as well as, bad omens. One superstition states that seeing three bats on Halloween brings bad luck, and if a bat gets inside a house on Halloween, it means that the house is haunted and the ghosts let the bat in.

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4. Spiders: here’s yet another witch familiar. In medieval time, it was thought that seeing a spider falling on a candle’s flame, and catching fire was a clear sign that witches were nearby. A spider on Halloween is believed to be the spirit of a diseased person watching over you.
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5. Cauldrons: Pagan Celts thought that, after death, all souls went into the Crone’s (old witch) cauldron, which is a symbol of Mother Earth’s womb. The souls remained in the cauldron, waiting to be reincarnated.

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6. Witches’ Broomsticks: in medieval times, elderly women were often accused of witchcraft. These women were too poor to afford horses, so they walked using sticks or their broomsticks to go into the woods. Based on this anecdote, broomsticks were since associated with witches.

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7. Trick-or-Treat: during Samhain, the veil that separates our world and the spirit realm is the thinnest. Spirits, ghosts and other entities would blend in with the living. They would dress like beggars and ask for food or money. If you gave nothing to them and turned them down, they would haunt you. In Celtic mythology, dressing up as ghouls would trick spirits into thinking that you were one of them. The tradition of Trick-or-Treating became popular in the US in the late 1950s, and it was originally brought by the Irish immigrants in the early 1900s.

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8. Halloween Colors: Yet again, the colors: orange and black come from a pagan tradition, in which the color orange symbolizes the beginning of the harvest season and the colors of the crops and the autumn leaves. As for the color black, it symbolizes the death of summer.

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9. Candy Apples: and finally, we have candy apples! This is actually a mix of two traditions (Celtic and Roman.) In ancient Rome, Samhain was around the time when the Roman festival honoring Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees (symbolized by an apple) took place. It was also a celebration on the harvest season. Candy apples were first introduced as being Halloween treats in the 1950s.

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I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! I love researching this kind of topics and I’m considering writing another article on some more superstitions around the world. You can check my other spooky articles that I’d written a while back. Until next time, take care and see you soon!

This article was written by at @Darkillangel13 on the We Heart It Writers Team.