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Bet you didn’t know : What is Halloween and why do we celebrate it?

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When is Halloween?

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Halloween falls on Monday October 31st this year. Every year we wear scary outfits, bob for apples and carve pumpkins, but why? When most people think of Halloween, they think of trick-or-treating, parades, bobbing for apples and other family-friendly activities. I bet you didn’t know the true story behind the ancient origins of Halloween!

What is Halloween?

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It all goes back some 2000 years to the ancient┬áCeltic festival known as Samhain, celebrated on November 1st. On the night before Samhain – October 31st, people believe that the dead returned as ghosts. They would leave food and wine under doorsteps to keep roaming spirits at bay and wear masks when they leave the house so they can be mistaken for fellow ghosts. The Christian church turned Samhain into All Saints Day or All Hallows in the 8th century. The night before became All Hallows Eve, later shorten to Halloween.

Traditions : Why do we celebrate it?

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You’ve heard of trick-or-treating on Halloween, but what about Souling or Guising?! All three of these traditions originated in Medieval Britain. On All Souls’ Day – November 2nd, the needy would beg for pastries, known as soul cakes, and in return they would pray for people’s dead relatives – this was called Souling!

Soul cakes

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Sciacce dei morti – Italian Soul Cakes

In the Medieval Halloween tradition of Guising, young people were dressed up in costumes and accept food, wine, money and other offerings in exchange for singing, citing poetry or telling jokes. In 19th century, America, Irish and Scottish immigrants revived these old traditions – the result was trick-or-treating. At first it was much more about the tricks, in the form of pranks and hijinks; then the treats. It wasn’t until the 1950’s, that the costume took to it’s current family-friendly, kids-centered form.

Spooky Halloween

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Today Hallowe’en is big business, with US consumers spending more than 2.5 billion on costumes annually; add in the candy and is estimated that America spend 6 billion on Hallowe’en each year – making it the 2nd most commercial holiday after Christmas!

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Whether you’re a fan of tricks, treats or trivia, there’s a bit of ┬áhistory I bet you didn’t know.

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