History, Pop Culture -

A History of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated each year on the 31st of October - you probably know this. But do you know why? Do you know the origins of Halloween? Some of our tales may surprise you.

ghost story red panda

Our red panda will now narrate this story

Well, first of all, the day’s official title is ‘Hallows’ Evening’ but in the UK we like to shorten everything don’t we? This is especially true of the Scots, as it was Robbie Burns who made the contraction popular in his 1785 poem of the same name. So it’s now commonly known as Halloween.

The spooky celebration also has Celtic roots, beginning as a harvest festival, with the religious ‘All Saints’ Day’ being on November 1st. But Halloween itself on the 31st is linked to the Celtic ‘Samhain’, which takes place as the summer ends. It is said this festival represented the thinning of a veil between worlds, where souls of the dead could return. And, to get on the dead’s good side, the living would offer gifts of food, and perhaps other things that were never reported…

And, we all know the joys of carving pumpkins, but did you know your ‘jack-o’-lanterns’ also have a spooky past?

One night, local Irish boy Jack had a little too much to drink. He decided to trap the Devil in a tree by pinning a cross to the bark. Jack and the Devil struck a deal, where Jack would let the Devil down in exchange for a promise he would never take his soul. Satan agreed.

highland cattle t-shirt

Our Highland Cattle's harrowing music signifies this was not a good decision for Jack

When Jack came to pass, heaven would not let him in, in account for his poor decisions in life. Left in limbo, Jack approached his old friend the Devil. Unfortunately, the Devil kept his promise and sent Jack packing, throwing a blazing hot piece of coal at him to ensure he got the message. Jack then placed this fiery piece of coal in a turnip and created a lamp. He then used this lamp to forever roam the earth, never having been given a resting place.

Halloween games used to be much more serious

Bobbing for apples, a game commonly enjoyed by both adults and children on Halloween, used to be less fun, and more an indication of your future. Women used to dunk their heads in the water, and the first person to bite into an apple and lift it out was deemed the first to marry. Another ritual was for a woman to look into a mirror by candlelight at midnight, where their future husband’s face was said to appear. This has now become the basis for the ‘Bloody Mary’ ritual which scares schoolkids to this day.

rabbit magic
This rabbit prefers bobbing for humans

Today, Halloween is an excuse to dress up and escape reality for a while. Because life can be tough can’t it? The holiday lets adults and kids alike have a little fun and enjoy the odd spook. While you may not find your future husband, you may instead find yourself having a good old laugh.

Visit our Halloween collection for originally spooky prints and t-shirts >

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