Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Random Facts About....Halloween

Since few days, the scariest night of the year is only a memory. But, even if I'm a little late, I wanna share with you some interesting curiosities about Halloween, the very well known celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. In my country, anyway, this celebration is not widely spread, so people would rather stay at home, watching some scary movies in front of a television than actually dressing up and conquer the street searching for some delicious sweets. Unfortunately, the strange nature of Halloween has captured people’s imaginations for centuries, and led to many superstitions and traditions that last to this day. But with this I'm not saying Halloween is failing. Lots of people still believe and decide to join others for hanging out and having fun.
And personally, I have more of a reason to party because my birthday is on the 1st of November.
Anyway, let's find out some interesting facts about this spooky tradition.

1. Originally, Halloween was known as “Samhain,” a Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the cold months. The pagans who first celebrated the holiday believed that on Samhain the veil between the two worlds was at its thinnest, and the dead could walk the earth. Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is known to have pre-Christian roots. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on that day. So we can say Halloween was born in Ireland.

2. Speaking about Halloween, we have to mention witches as a popular disguise. Actually the word “witch” comes from the Old English "wicce", meaning “wise woman.” In fact, wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.

3. Most of us can only imagine walking through a movie-style Halloween town—unless you’ve been to Salem, Massachusetts, the self-proclaimed Halloween capital of the world. The city is full of shops that commercially celebrates witches, with also a witch museum and scores of other spooky sites. However, like any city, the thing that truly gives it the spark of life and wonder are the people. Salem on Halloween is an extraordinary experience, with people thronging the streets in every sort of costume imaginable. So the city lives and breathes the culture of witchcraft and, as Halloween comes, the amount of people in costume steadily increases. Some people have even classified Salem to a all-year-long  Halloween party. It’s a place where dreams (and nightmares) come true.

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

5. Probably you have heard of Jack O' Lantern. Well, in case you haven't, this is an Irish legend. This has it that one day the devil himself came to take the soul of a thieving man named Jack. But Jack managed to trick the devil, making him promise to never take his soul. After eventually living a long life, Jack tried to enter Heaven, but could not, for he had lived a life of evil. He then attempted to enter Hell, but the devil kept his word, being no big fan of Jack anyway. When Jack complained of having no way to see, the devil laughed at him and threw him a glowing ember, which he fashioned into a lantern using a turnip in his pocket. He became Jack Of The Lantern, doomed to aimlessly walk the Earth with nowhere to go. During centuries, turnips were replaced with pumpkins, and that's why now are the most popular symbol of Halloween. Some legends say the Irish would use turnips or beets to create jack-o’-lanterns for multiple purposes. The lanterns were sometimes used as a means of honoring those souls trapped in purgatory, but their threatening faces were also used to scare away evil spirits.

6. Dressing up as ghouls and other spooks originated from the ancient Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits. The Celts believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain. Also Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to calm down spirits who roamed the streets.

7.  Scarecrows, a popular Halloween fixture, symbolize the ancient agricultural roots of the holiday. So dressing up like one of these "giant puppets" can be considered some kind of tribute to the ancient celebrations.

8.Halloween celebrations in Hong Kong are known as Yue Lan or the “Festival of the Hungry Ghosts” during which fires are lit and food and gifts are offered to placate potentially angry ghosts who might be looking for revenge.

9. Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.

10. The owl is a popular Halloween image. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl's call meant someone was about to die.

11. Some people think of El Día de los Muertos as a Mexican version of Halloween. But these two holidays actually boast very different perspectives of death. Halloween is very much based on the fear of death and spirits, but on El Día de los Muertos, death is embraced and even celebrated. On this day, the spirits of the dead return to Earth, guided by the strong aroma of marigolds and incense to shrines, set up for them by their families, who celebrate their return. As the day comes to an end, the families may head to the cemetery to spend the rest of the night with their loved ones before they go back to the other world. While many of our Halloween traditions find skeletons to be scary,  El Día de los Muertos uses them both to celebrate and laugh at death. What a fantastic way to exorcise it!

12.  Maybe you don't believe in legends, but there's actually a scientific phenomenon with the Jack O' Lantern history. Swamp gases that interact with decaying matter will sometimes give off a strange light that seems to vanish when you get closer. Before we had a scientific explanation, people believed these were trapped souls who could enter neither heaven nor hell and would lead you astray. These chemical fires are commonly called Will-o'-the-Wisp. Surprised...I hope so.

13. While "trick or treat" today means "give us a treat or we'll put a prank on you", originally it meant that the person asking for the treat would perform a trick for the amusement of the giver. This often included reciting rhymes or singing songs. The practice eventually switched, in North America, Ireland and Scotland, to the solicitors vandalizing homes and performing others pranks if the treat was not given. Also the first known mention of trick-or-treating in print in North America occurred in 1927 in Blackie, Alberta, Canada. Than this tradition became more popular thanks to the mass media and the television. In fact, also Walt Disney in 1952 and Charles Shulz in 1951, used this in cartoons and comics, with Donald Duck and The Peanuts.

14. The largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by Norm Craven, who broke the world record in 1993 with a 836 lb. pumpkin. Another record was registered by Jim Bryson, with his 824 Kilos pumpkin. The last one was carved by artist Ray Villafane, who made a scary masterpiece. Let me say his work on pumpkins is amazing.

15. Now let's talk about speed in carving. Well, Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.

16. Pumpkin carving being associated with Halloween comes from a method used by the Celts to ward off evil spirits during the over-nominated Samhain.  The Celts would hollow out turnips, then carve faces in them and place candles inside.  The turnips were then either placed in the windows, to keep evil spirits from entering a home, or carried around as lanterns.  This tradition eventually melded with the North American tradition of carving pumpkins.  At this point, the carving of pumpkins, which had been around in North America before Halloween was popularly introduced, became associated almost exclusively with Halloween around the 19th century.

17.  Halloween was influenced by the ancient Roman festival Pomona, which celebrated the harvest goddess of the same name. Many Halloween customs and games that feature apples (such as bobbing for apples) and nuts date from this time. In fact, in the past, Halloween has been called San-Apple Night and Nutcrack Night.

18. Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween. Other girls believed they would see their boyfriend's faces if they looked into mirrors while walking downstairs at midnight on Halloween.

19. Because Protestant England did not believe in Catholic saints, the rituals traditionally associated with Hallowmas (or Halloween) became associated with Guy Fawkes Night. England declared November 5th Guy Fawkes Night to commemorate the capture and execution of Guy Fawkes, who co-conspired to blow up the Parliament in 1605 in order to restore a Catholic king.

20. According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and then walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.

21. Teng Chieh or the Lantern Festival is one Halloween festival in China. Lanterns shaped like dragons and other animals are hung around houses and streets to help guide the spirits back to their earthly homes. To honor their deceased loved ones, family members leave food and water by the portraits of their ancestors.

22.  Boston, Massachusetts, holds the record for the most Jack O' Lanterns lit at once (30,128).

23. According to legend, if you see a spider on Halloween, it's actually the spirit of a loved one watching you.

24. October 30th is National Candy Corn Day. Well, it's perfectly comprehensible, in fact Americans purchase over 20 million pounds of Candy Corn each year. And those candies are great just because Candy corn has been made with the same recipe by the Jelly Belly Candy Company since around 1900.

25. Valentine's Day is no longer the sweetest national holiday at least when it come to candy sales. More than twice as much chocolate is sold for Halloween as for Valentines Day; 90 million pounds of chocolate are sold during Halloween week alone. In total, $1.9 billion is spent on Halloween candy each year.

26. In 2010, Belleville, Illinois, became the latest city to ban trick-or-treating for kids over 12. Teens can face fines from $100 to $1,000 for going door-to-door (although according to officials, more often than not, over-age Halloween-goers are just given a warning).

27. The biggest pumpkin pie on record was 20 feet in diameter and weighed 3,699 pounds. It was baked by the New Breman Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio in 2010, breaking their own previous world's record of 2,020 pounds. The ginormous orange pie contained 1,212 pounds of pumpkin, 233 dozen eggs, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 525 pounds of sugar, 7 pounds of salt, and 14.5 pounds of cinnamon. Spookylicious...

28. The pumpkin originated in Mexico about 9,000 years ago. It is one of America's oldest known vegetables. Pumpkins generally weigh from 15-to-30 pounds, although some weigh as much as 200 pounds. The majority of pumpkins are orange, but they also can be white, yellow or striped. They are rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene and potassium, and their seeds provide protein and iron.

29. No matter how scary your local haunted house is, it probably can't top the Haunted Cave in Lewisburg, Ohio. It measures 3,564 feet long, and Guinness World Records named it the world's longest haunted house in 2010 (until it was beaten by a haunted house in Japan in 2011). Even spookier: It's located 80 feet below ground in an abandoned mine.

30. Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday. After Christmas, obviously.

31. Linus is the only one in the Peanuts gang who believes in the Great Pumpkin.

32. Imagine you’re walking home on Halloween night, coming back from a party or perhaps a successful night of trick-or-treating. Everything seems fine, but then you hear the sound of someone walking behind you. You quicken your step a bit, but they seem to match pace with yours. While you might be tempted to turn around and look to assure yourself that everything is okay, this could be a fatal mistake. According to superstition, there is a good chance on Halloween that you are being shadowed by Death himself, and if you look upon him it will be your end.

I don't know, maybe you felt observed on Halloween night. In that case, you probably risked to be the Death's candy bar....AND EVEN IF I'M A LITTLE LATE, HAPPY HALLOWEEN, SNOOPERS !!


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