Halloween is full of beloved traditions and symbols – jack-o’-lanterns, witches, bats, black cats, and more. But when you look back at the origins of the spooky holiday, you’ll find some surprising secrets and obscure facts. Halloween has evolved over centuries from ancient Celtic harvest festivals into an opportunity today for eating candy, dressing up in costumes, and carving pumpkins. However, many of the modern Halloween customs we take for granted actually have unexpected histories. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the weird, witchy facts about Halloween that you likely never knew. Get ready to look at Halloween in a whole new light!
The Full Moon Rarely Takes Place on Halloween
One would think the mystical holiday of Halloween would regularly coincide with an equally mystical event – a full moon. But in reality, a full moon rarely falls on Halloween. The next full moons to occur on October 31st will be in 2020, 2039, 2058, 2077, and 2096. So don’t expect to see a bright full moon while trick-or-treating this year. However, the infrequency of the Halloween full moon also adds to its wonder when it does finally happen. Those years are perfect for throwing a Halloween party under the moonlight.
Vampires and Bats Have Nothing to Do with Halloween
While vampires and bats are now essential Halloween symbols, they have no historical connection to the holiday. Halloween originates from the Celtic festival Samhain, a celebration of the harvest and changing seasons. Vampires became associated with Halloween when Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897. Bats were likely linked to the spooky holiday because they’re nocturnal and have a somewhat creepy reputation. So don’t blame the Celts for the influx of vampires and bats each Halloween!
Candy Corn Was Originally Known as “Chicken Feed”
The iconic triangular Halloween treat was invented by George Renninger in the 1880s. At that time, it wasn’t called candy corn – it was dubbed “chicken feed” since its look resembled corn kernels. “Chicken feed” was produced by the Goelitz Confectionery Company (now called Jelly Belly Candy Company). The candy got its current common name around the turn of the century when corn became more widely produced and consumption increased. Regardless of what you call it, candy corn has become a polarizing Halloween staple today.
The Origins of Trick-or-Treating Are Up For Debate
The tradition of trick-or-treating has been around for centuries, but its exact origins are still up for debate. Some trace it back to medieval England and Ireland, where people would go door-to-door begging for food on Hallowmas (November 1st). Others believe it evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and offerings to ward off evil spirits on Samhain. Regardless of the specific origin, trick-or-treating has become a beloved Halloween ritual in America and beyond.
Pumpkin Carving Originated from an Irish Folktale
The tradition of carving jack-o’-lanterns actually comes from an old Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. As the story goes, Jack tricked the devil into promising not to claim his soul when he died. But Jack also had bad standing with God, so he was cursed to wander the earth as a spirit. He used a carved-out turnip with a burning coal inside to light his way. Irish immigrants brought this practice to America, using pumpkins instead of turnips to create jack-o’-lanterns.
Halloween Inspired Both Reese’s and M&Ms
Believe it or not, those popular candies were invented for Halloween! Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were created in 1928 after H.B. Reese experimented with combining chocolate and peanut butter. He packaged the new treat in orange, brown and yellow wrappers – perfect for Halloween. Likewise, M&Ms were created in 1941 and given brown, red, orange, green, yellow and violet coatings to appeal to holiday buyers looking for festive colors. So next time you enjoy those candies, thank Halloween for the inspiration!
Owls Became Associated with Halloween Because of Their Link to Witches
Like vampires and bats, owls actually have no direct historical connection to Halloween. But over time owls became seen as spooky creatures associated with witches. This perception likely comes from the owls’ nocturnal habits and perceived intelligence. An old wives’ tale claimed owls would accompany witches on their broomsticks. And owls have a long symbolic connection to death in many cultures. While not supernatural creatures themselves, owls became intertwined with witch imagery and thus found their way into Halloween symbolism.
Halloween’s Black Cats Also Originated from Witch Superstitions
Black cats being bad luck around Halloween time again goes back to witches. In the Middle Ages, people believed witches could turn into black cats. Around the 15th century, cats of any color became associated with witches, likely because they were seen as their “evil” companions. Additionally, during the witch hunts, people believed black cats were actually witches in disguise. Today the black cat remains an iconic Halloween symbol, even though most know witches and cats have no actual relation. But the superstitious stigma around black cats persists even outside of Halloween.
Halloween has certainly changed over the centuries, but many of its quirky customs still link back to ancient superstitions and folklore. Now that you know about the debate over trick-or-treating’s start, the real Casey Jones inspiring the Ninja Turtle, and the full moon’s rarity on Halloween night, you can impress your friends with your holiday trivia skills! The next time you see bats, black cats, and candy corn, remember the unusual backstories they have. With this new knowledge, you can have even more appreciation for all of the eclectic traditions that make Halloween the fascinating holiday it is today.