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13 Halloween Traditions Explained
Transcript of 13 Halloween Traditions Explained
13 Halloween Traditions
Trick or Treat
The traditional Halloween colors of orange and black stem from the pagan celebration of autumn and the harvest, with orange symbolizing the colors of the crops and turning leaves, while black marks the "death" of summer and the changing season.
The pagan Celts believed that after death, all souls went into the crone's cauldron. There, souls awaited reincarnation, as the goddess' stirring allowed for new souls to enter and old souls to be reborn. That image of the cauldron of life has now been replaced by the steaming, bubbling, ominous brew.
In olden times, it was believed that during Halloween, the veil between our world and the spirit world was at its thinnest, and that the ghosts could mingle with the living. The superstition was that the visiting ghosts would disguise themselves as humans, and knock on
The stereotypical image of a witch with a pointy black hat and warty nose stirring a magical potion in her cauldron originates from a pagan goddess known as "the crone." She was originally known as the "Earth mother," and symbolized wisdom, change, and the turning of the seasons. Today, the kind, all-knowing old crone has morphed into the menacing, cackling witch.
The witch's broomstick is another superstition that has its roots in medieval myths. The elderly, introverted women that were accused of witchcraft were often poor and could not afford horses, so they navigated through the woods on foot with the help of walking sticks, which were sometimes substituted by brooms.
The candy most synonymous with Halloween was invented in the late 1880s. The original process for making candy corn was cumbersome and time-consuming, as each color of syrup had to be heated up in large vats and carefully poured by hand.
But the yellow, orange, and white candy — meant to resemble a corn kernel — was a huge hit and remains a popular part of Halloween to this day.
A fusion of Celtic and Roman traditions is responsible for this staple. The Celtic festival Samhain (the basis for what is now Halloween) was around the same time as a Roman festival honoring Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
From some — namely troublesome teenagers — Halloween is also a time for neighborhood pranks. From egging and toilet-papering houses to smashing jack-o'-lanterns, "devil's night" can be full of mischief and menace.
The ancient Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires, games and comical pranks. By the 1920s and 30s, however, the celebrations became more rowdy, with rising acts of vandalism, possibly due to the tension caused by the Great Depression, according to Jack Santino's "Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life" (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1994). To curb the vandalism, adults began to hand out candy, reigniting the forgotten tradition of trick-or-treating in costume in exchange for sweets. This successfully replaced most of the mischief elements from Oct. 31 celebrations, so the troublemakers instead adopted Oct. 30 as their official night to pull pranks and wreak havoc.
In ancient times, the apple was viewed as a sacred fruit that could be used to predict the future. It was believed that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using their
hands would be the first to marry.
Bobbing for Apples
If the bobber lucked out and caught an apple on the first try, it meant that they would experience true love, while those who got an apple after many tries would not be so lucky.
The carving of Jack-O'-Lanterns actually has its roots in a tragic fable. Celtic folklore tells the tale of a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil, but his trickery resulted in him being turned away from both the heaven and hell after he died. Having no choice but to wander around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made
a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal that the devil had
tossed him from hell.
Jack, the story goes, used the lantern to guide his lost soul, and so the Celts believed that placing Jack-o'-lanterns outside would help guide lost spirits home when they wandered the streets on Halloween. When the Irish potato famine of 1846 forced Irish families to flee to North America, the tradition came with them. Since turnips were hard to come by in the states at the time, pumpkins were used as a substitute.
doors asking for money or food. If you turned them away empty-handed, you risked receiving the wrath of the spirit.
Spiders join the ranks of bats and black cats in folklore as being evil companions of witches during medieval times. One superstition held that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is consumed by the flame, witches are nearby.
One myth was that if a bat was spotted flying around one's house three times, it meant that someone in that house would soon die.
Medieval folklore has long described bats as witches' friends. Seeing a bat on Halloween was considered to be quite an ominous sign.
The black cat's bad reputation dates back to the Dark Ages, when witch hunts were commonplace. Elderly, solitary women were often accused of witchcraft, and their pet cats were said to be their "familiars," or demonic animals that had been given to them by the devil.