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Did You Know ...

What we know as Halloween today, began hundreds of years ago as a Celtic celebration. The Celts lived in the lands we now know as England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They believed that the Gods told the sun to disappear from the earth in the fall, thus killing their crops and causing cold weather. To calm the Gods, the Celts built bon-fires and dressed up in animal costumes.

Trick-or-treating is an Irish tradition, based on a custom where the wealthy land-owners would give food to the poor people of the village on Halloween night. They believed that the ghosts would look favorably on them for doing so and therefore spare them from mischief. This custom of Trick or Treating was brought to North America in the 1800's.

Halloween has its origins in several autumn festivals and is actually a collection of various customs and celebrations gathered through the ages.

Some ancient autumn festivals include:

The festival of Samhain, which occurred at the end of each growing season. It was the festival of the dead growing months and was celebrated with fruit, vegetables, dancing and games throughout France, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. It was believed that on the night of the festival, deceased relatives could walk the earth.

The feast of Taman - The Celtic New Year Celebration - followed Samhain. Back then the new year began on November 1st and the Celts believed that if they celebrated, the next growing season would be bountiful.

The feast of Pomona was a Roman harvest celebration for Pomona, the goddess of orchards.

The ancient Druids had a three-day celebration at the beginning of November. They believed that on the last night of October spirits of the dead roamed abroad, and so they would light bonfires to drive them away. The Celts used to carve lanterns from turnips and carried them through the villages.

  • In the 17th and 18th Centuries, people in weird costumes and masks would go from house to house, sing and dancing to keep evil at bay. These people were known as "guisers"

  • The pumpkin is a versatile fruit commonly grown in North America, Great Britain, and Continental Europe for both human food and livestock feed.

  • There is a poisonous mushroom called a Jack-o'-lantern. These mushroom are a bright orange-yellow in color and on rainy nights they appears to glow in the dark

  • Halloween kisses (chewy toffee candies) are made of the same ingredients found in watercolor paint. The paint is made of gum arabic and pigment (or color) and Halloween kisses are made of gum arabic and sugar.

Some of the facts which appear here can be found in: Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1994, 1995 Compton's NewMedia, Inc. Strange Stories Amazing Facts 1976 The Readers's Digest Association Inc.

© Andrea Mulder-Slater

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