Columns / Discourse / October 28, 2010

Did You Know: The lowdown on Halloween

With Halloween coming up, I decided that it was time for the public to be educated about some not-so well-known facts about this holiday known for its scare and (in America, anyway) candy!

First off, samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween. Not just any fear, but an intense and persistent fear—let’s say phobia!

The first Jack-O-Lanterns were actually made from turnips by the Celts. I can’t imagine trying to carve those and stick candles in them!

The owl is a popular Halloween image because in Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches. If someone heard an owl’s call, it meant someone was about to die. Creepy.

Ever wonder where the name “Jack-O-Lantern” originated from? According to Irish legend, the name came from a notorious drunk and practical joker named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree. He then carved an image of a cross into the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil in the highest branches. Jack then made a deal with the devil, saying that if the devil would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down. Because of this, when Jack died, he was denied entrance to heaven because of his evil ways, and then was denied entrance to hell because he had tricked the devil. The devil instead gave him a single ember to light his way though the cold, dark winter, and Jack placed it into a hallowed-out turnip to keep it lit longer. When the Irish came to America, they saw that pumpkins were more plentiful and made it the official Jack-O-Lantern. Next time you’re carving your pumpkin, you’ll know the story behind it.

As most people know, black and orange are typically associated with Halloween. Orange is a symbol of strength and endurance and, with brown and gold, stands for harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness, and acts as a reminder that Halloween was once a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death.

According to tradition (whose tradition, I’m not sure), if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight. Anyone who wants a good scare could try it and tell everyone else if it’s true or not!

Children are more than twice as likely to be killed in a pedestrian or car accident on Halloween than on any other night. So any trick-o-treaters, be careful!

In many countries such as France and Australia, Halloween is seen as an unwanted and overly commercial American influence. This is coming from the country (Australia) that banned Santa Claus from laughing his original, jolly laugh (ho, ho, ho!). They just don’t know what they’re missing.

Have a happy Halloween!

Emily Park

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