Friday, October 19, 2012

The Skinny: Halloween is for Lovers

Halloween is a holiday with deep roots. Many of the traditions can be traced back to the early Celts, when Druids held rituals in honor of the dead on the night before their new year, when departed souls returned to earth for one night. The holiday evolved as various religions reinterpreted it, moved to new lands as colonies were established, and, in America, benefited from the spice of our millions of cultural immigrants to become the holiday that we celebrate today. We know it's all about costumes, and parties, and tricks (or treats), and witches and ghosts, and scary stories. But, we tend to forget about the reasons for our rituals, and the superstitions behind them.

For example, why do we spend millions (if not billions) of dollars per year on costumes? It's really to disguise us from the spirits of dead people. Since Halloween is the night when souls return to earth, people out after dark need to look like somebody (or something) else, so they don't get spirited away (ha!) by the dead.

But, there are some Halloween superstitions that are more about the living. These are all Although they are much less common today, quite a few Halloween rituals were specifically intended to lead to marriage. An Irish girl who found a ring in her serving of mashed potatoes (put there by the cook, of course) would find her soul mate within the year.  A Scottish girl would gather hazelnuts, name each one after her potential lovers, throw them in the fire (the nuts, not the suitors), and pay attention for a nut that burns to ashes rather than bursting. This is the nut she will marry! Of course, other parts of the country thought the reverse was true--if it burns, he's not the one. I'm sure this was very confusing, and wreaked havoc on the hazelnut harvest.

Magic nuts!

 In other countries, eating a particular type of candy (with hazelnuts again) would trigger a vivid dream of your true love's face. Apple peels tossed over your shoulder might magically spell out your betrothed's initials on the floor. A bowl full of water, with egg yolks floating delicately on top, can stand in for a crystal ball for the girl desperately seeking a glimpse of her future marriage. Or, if uncooked yellow blobs are less than appealing, you could always stand in a dark room, in front of a mirror, and light a candle. This is supposed to show the reflection of your soul mate standing behind you. Or, a serial killer who is actually standing behind you. Either way, it's useful.

She might want to run....

 The first person to successfully snag a fruit while bobbing for apples will be the first of the party guests to buy a fancy dress and veil. This, I feel, is cruel. Have you ever actually tried to grab an apple with your teeth while trying not to drown in front of a group of your peers?

October, 1933

 Personally, I feel that all of these methods involve way too much effort. It is so much more satisfying to turn off the porch light at 6:30pm, eat your way through the candy bowl while ignoring the crying children at the door, and watch a movie. This is even more effective if the movie features, say...Robert Downey Jr.

from Italian Vogue

 I knew I could count on that Halloween magic to show me my true love! And also, there's candy!

*Information obtained from

No comments:

Post a Comment