Hallowe’en, that magical night for the kids, is approaching again, and with it comes this shot of trivia about the very early beginnings of “Spook Night.”
The Druids and the Romans
Have you noticed how the Druids manage to weasel into almost every historical flashback? When in doubt, attribute everything to the Druids.
In the case of Hallowe’en, the Stonehenge crowd set aside the night for the dead. Centuries before Christianity, the Druids believed that Samhain, the Celtic Lord of the Dead, released the souls of the departed to wander the land. Priests gathered on windy hilltops around huge bonfires to guide the dead in their travels between the earth and the netherworld. Ancient Roman writers allegeg that the night was also marked with grim pagan rituals that included human sacrifice. Julius Caesar wrote that those sacrificed werte primarily criminals, but sometimes innocents were also sacrificed. The human sacrifices were burned alive in a large wooden effigy, which is the source of today’s “wicker man.”
Pumpkins and “trick or treat”
The early Christians believed that evil, supernatural forces were especially powerful on the eve of All Saints Day, which occurred on November 1. Thus, October 31 was known as All Hallows Eve (today’s Hallowe’en) and was marked by the lighting of huge bonfires to ward off any evil spirits that might be lurking in the night.
People were warned that, if they left the safety of the bonfire they, would be at the mercy of witches and goblins. To protect their homes, they hollowed out turnips and placed a lighted candle inside. The turnips had grotesque faces carved into them to scare off the goblins of the night, and that’s how we got today’s jack-o’-lantern, although in North America the pumpkin replaced the turnip.
Another effective ghoul-repeller was the carrying of a pitchfork with flaming straw to singe a witch’s broom as she flew by.
“Trick or treating” has a mixed history from both sides of the Atlantic. The “treat” part started in 17th-century Ireland when peasants asked for food treats at the doors of the wealthy. The idea of avoiding a prankish “trick” by giving a treat, seems to be a relatively recent North American addition to Hallowe’en,
The beginning of blackmail?
It’s interesting to note that the earliest New World settlers didn’t mark October 31 at all. It was only after the arrival of millions of Irish and Scottish immigrants that Hallowe’en took on any special significance over here.
In addition to their Halloween customs, the immigrants also gave us a cornucopia of belly laughs, namely:
• How do ghosts get through locked doors?
They use skeleton keys.
• What is the leader of the “Ghost Club” called?
The spooks person.
• What is a ghost’s favourite bird?
The scare crow.
• What kind of TV does Dracula own?
• What do you get when you cross Dracula with Sleeping Beauty?
• What do you call the son of a vampire?
A bat boy.
• When does the Invisible Man usually disappear?
When the waiter brings the check.
• How do vampires travel?
By blood vessel.
• What is a ghost’s favourite dessert?
“Boo” berry pie.
• What do you call a monster that is 20 feet high, with large teeth and horrible claws?
• What do you call a phantom chicken?
• What's all-white and goes, Oob, oob?”
A ghost walking backwards.
• Who referees the monsters’ game of baseball?
• What is a vampire’s favourite dance?
The fang dango.