Saturday, October 5, 2019
VIII - Other Halloween Traditions.
Today’s Halloween comes with customs and superstitions. Some date back centuries. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots back to the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs of today’s trick-or-treaters? Many are based on obsolete rituals. Surprisingly, many are focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead.
Research shows, in addition to mummers and guisers, some believe that today's tradition of trick-or-treating stems from 'Belsnickling', a tradition in German-American communities where children would dress in costume and then call on their neighbors. The adults would attempt to guess the identities of those in the costumes. The children were rewarded with food or other treats if no one could identify them.
2. Black Cats
Black cats go back to the Middle Ages, when they were considered a symbol of the Devil. Then centuries later, women accused of being witches often had pet cats, black ones. Based on this, the public started believing that the black cats assisted the witches with their spells and black magic. Some beliefs do not die, given black cats today are still associated with witches.
3. Bobbing for Apples
It is thought that the association of this game with Halloween, dates back to the ancient Roman Festival of Romana, the goddess of agriculture and fruits. After conquering the British isles, the Romans combined this festival with the All Hallows Eve celebration of Samhain. Originally the practice of Bobbing for Apples was a courting ritual. (Keep in mind, being the Goddess Fruit, may have also alluded to fertility.) Young men and women could foretell their future mates based on this game.
4. Black and Orange
Once again, the colors associated with Halloween trace their origins back to the Celtic festival Samhain and the onset of winter. The Black represented the ‘death’ of summer and the orange the autumn harvest season.
The tradition of ‘Devil’s Night’ has many tales of its origination. Once again, this traced its roots back to All Souls Day. Part of the tradition goes back as far as the Soulers. When not given soul cakes, they would play tricks or cause mischief. 'Devil's Night' was often called 'Mischief Night'. Scottish and Irish immigrants brought the tradition of 'Mischief Night ' to America. It became part of Halloween.
6. Candles and Bonfires
Bonfires have direct ties back to Samhain and the bonfires the Druids built to bring light to the darkness. Candles were thought to light the way for the souls to find the afterlife, given All Hallows Eve was believed to be the only night both the evil spirits and good souls could roam the Earth.
7. Candy Apples
Once again this tradition has its roots back to Romana. The sugar syrups of the candy preserves the apples. However, candy apples did not become popular until the 1950's. Not sure where the practice of caramel apples came from.
The bonfires the Druids built on Samhain would have naturally attracted insects which then attracted bats seeking the insects. Therefore the bats became associated with the All Hallows Eve. Medieval folklore believed that bats were an omen of death.
The original 'treats' given out to the Soulers were sweets that later became Soul Cakes. By the early 20th century the "treats' became candy. Not wanting to miss a marketing opportunity, candy companies in the 1950's produced and sold small pieces of individually wrapped candy to be used as treats. Scares from treats and unwrapped candy being fouled by drugs, poison, and sharp objects in the 1970's drove parents to almost exclusively give out individually wrapped pieces of candy.
10. Candy Corn
Candy Corn, one of my favorites, dates back to the 1880's and a candy maker at the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia who invented the tri-color candy. Originally candy corn was called "Chicken Feed". Boxes of the candy read "Something worth crowing for." It wasn't until the 1950's that candy corn became Halloween-specific. Since then the orange, yellow, and white colors have been changed to pinks, purples, white, and pale greens during the Easter Season to cash into the Easter candy tradition. Also, you can find red, white, and blue candy 'corn' around the 4th of July.