Halloween Trivia


In Lewis, Scotland, Halloween was once celebrated by designating one man to wade into the evening sea and offer a cup of ale to Shoney, a sea-god.

In the British Isles, jack o'lanterns are carved from large turnips (pumpkins are unique to the New World); the turnips are usually not carved all the way through, but rather sections of the rind are carved away, to provide a glowing appearance.

Jack O'Lantern is really a legendary folk hero, mainly in Britain and Ireland but also in parts of the United States. In many versions of the tale, he was a blacksmith who was too evil for heaven but outwitted the Devil and so was turned away from hell; now he wanders the earth with a lantern made of a coal and the last vegetable he was eating (a turnip or a pumpkin).

In some parts of New England Halloween is called "Cabbage Night", from the pranksters who once roamed the countryside with cabbage stumps which they used to smear windows with.

A popular Halloween drink in 18th century Ireland was "lambs-wool", which consisted of roasted, crushed apples mixed into milk. Dinner consisted of "callcannon" - mashed potatoes, parsnips and chopped onions. A ring was buried in it, and whoever found the ring in his portion would supposedly be married in a year, or receive good luck.

The Scots believed in the "Samhanach", a goblin who came out only on Samhain and stole children.

In the North of England Halloween was called "nut-crack" and "snap-apple night".

Clear up until the early 20th century, Halloween cakes - which had small charms baked into them - were the centerpieces of Halloween parties, along with bobbing for apples and fortune-telling.

One of the most popular forms of Halloween fortune-telling involved using a mirror to discover the identity of one's future husband. Although it had many variations, a typical method involved sitting before a mirror at midnight on Halloween, eating an apple and brushing one's hair; supposedly an image of your loved one would appear in the glass.

Kale, nuts, cakes, mirrors, apples and corn all featured prominently in Halloween fortune-telling traditions, and were usually used in some way to foretell one's future spouse.

The idea that anonymous psychos are dishing out poisoned candy to children probably dates back to 1964, when a New York housewife gave poisoned ant buttons to older trick-or-treaters as a joke. There are virtually no cases on any record books of genuine "Halloween sadism", i.e. poisoned candy or razor-blade-hiding apples.