7 Burning Halloween Questions: Answered!

iStock
iStock

As you put the finishing touches on your costume and stock up on candy for the neighborhood kids, let's take a minute to reflect on the origin of some popular Halloween traditions.

1. WHO STARTED HALLOWEEN?

Halloween got its start thousands of years ago, and we can thank the Celts for getting things going. They celebrated a holiday known as Samhain on October 31, one of the four "quarter days" of the calendar, and possibly the Celtic New Year. They believed that the dead could walk the earth on Samhain and cause mischief but, on the plus side, their presence also made it easier for the Druid priests to predict the future.

2. WHY DO WE WEAR COSTUMES?

On Samhain, a big bonfire would be built and sacrifices made to the dead, while the common folk would dress up in animal skins and try to tell their own fortunes (probably with the same success rate as the "professionals"). The costumes, Halloween's most enduring tradition, were donned either to calm the spirits or to blend in with them, so as to not incur their wrath.

3. HOW DID SAMHAIN BECOME HALLOWEEN?

Starting in 43 CE, the Roman war machine rolled through Britain and conquered a large chunk of the Celtic population. But the Romans, always the master conquerors, cleverly blended two of their own holidays with the Celtic Samhain to make the transition to Roman rule more seamless. One holiday was a celebration of the dead (easy enough to mix with Samhain) and the other was a celebration of the Pomona, the goddess of fruit and tress, where, supposedly, the tradition of bobbing for apples takes root.

When Christianity arrived on the scene, the hodgepodge holiday again was forced to change. Like the previous blending, the Christians incorporated their own holidays into the Samhain tradition. November 1 became All-hallow's, a day to celebrate the saints and martyrs, and October 31 became All-hallow's Even ("Even" being short for "evening," and providing the "n" in "Halloween"). Through the magic of etymology, All-hallow's Even became Halloween.

4. HOW DID WE GET FROM BONFIRES AND DEAD SAINTS TO PLASTIC MASKS AND CANDY CORN?

Why, the Americans of course!

But it didn't happen right away. Puritans in New England suppressed the superstitious holiday. In the South, however, where religious piety was less important, Halloween was celebrated in much the same way it was in Europe. But a great tide of immigration in the late 1800s brought a new life to the holiday, and no amount of piety could contain it. Through the years, the "spookiness" of Halloween was replaced with a more wholesome community feel, out of which grew trick-or-treating and, as towns celebrated together, stripped any religious significance away. Finally, after many thousands of years and many cultural modifications, we arrived at a holiday involving witches, costumes, candy, mischief, the deceased and pumpkins.

5. WAIT, WHERE DO PUMPKINS FIT IT?

Making vegetable lanterns can be traced back to Great Britain and Ireland, where carving turnips, beets and potatoes had been a fall tradition for many centuries. According to an Irish myth, a man named Stingy Jack once had a drink with the Devil and, when he didn't want to pay for it, he convinced the Devil to turn into a coin. However, Stingy Jack lived up to his name and pocketed the coin next to a cross, keeping the Devil locked in a monetary state until he struck a deal with Jack to leave him alone and not claim his soul for Hell upon his death. When Jack did die, Heaven rejected him and, true to his word, so did the Devil.

As punishment for his trickery, the Devil sent Jack out to wander the earth forever with a single coal in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. To Irish children he was Jack of the Lantern or, as the Irish are wont to do when confronted with an "of the," Jack O'Lantern.

But Jack-o'-Lanterns were not a part of Halloween celebrations in Britain; it would take a new continent to cement that tradition. The first mention of a Jack-o'-Lantern being part of a Halloween celebration comes from a Canadian paper which, in 1866, wrote, "The old time custom of keeping up Hallowe'en was not forgotten last night by the youngsters of the city. They had their maskings and their merry-makings, and perambulated the streets after dark in a way which was no doubt amusing to themselves. There was a great sacrifice of pumpkins from which to make transparent heads and face, lighted up by the unfailing two inches of tallow candle."

6. WHY DID PUMPKINS BEAT OUT TURNIPS, BEETS AND POTATOES?

Simple. Pumpkins abounded in America and were much better for carving and illuminating than any of the aforementioned veggies. We can assume the tradition of smashing pumpkins originated very soon after the carved pumpkin entered the Halloween celebration in the late 1800s.

7. WHERE DOES CANDY CORN COME FROM?

Like Christmas and the candy cane and Easter with its marshmallow Peeps, Halloween, too, has a signature sweet: the mysterious candy corn. Like some annual plague, the small cone-shaped candies infect our stores and molars each year before vanishing as quickly as they came. Comedian Lewis Black has a theory about candy corn: "All the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1914. They never had to make it again. We never eat enough of it. We only eat two or three or four pieces apiece. So, literally, after Halloween the candy corn companies send out their minions. And they go from garbage can to garbage can and collect the corn and throw it back in the bags. And it appears next year." Good theory, but not quite right.

Nobody knows who invented candy corn, but we do know it began to appear in the 1880s, and we know the first company to make it commercially was the Wunderle Candy Company of Philadelphia. Soon after, the Goelitz Confectionery Company began production of candy corn in Cincinnati in 1898. The process at first was daunting: a candy blend was mixed up, heated and then poured by hand into molds. Each mold needed three separate pours to achieve the tri-color glory that is candy corn. Today the process is mechanized and the tri-color composition isn't nearly as impressive as it was to the people of the 19th century, but Goelitz has never changed the recipe and they continue to make the candy to this day. The Goelitz Confectionery Company even went on to invent another fairly popular candy a few decades later, although they had to change the company name to do so. Today they are known as Jelly Belly.

All images via iStock.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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10 of the Best Halloween Costumes for Your Dog

Amazon/Chewy
Amazon/Chewy

Although trick-or-treating might look a little different this year, there’s no reason why you (or your favorite pet) still can’t celebrate Halloween in style. To help you get in the spooky spirit with your four-legged housemates, we’ve rounded up some of 2020’s best—and cutest—costumes for your dogs. Whether your little monster wants to pay homage to their favorite horror movie or simply don a festive sweater, one of these costumes is guaranteed to earn them an extra treat or two.

1. Taco Dog; $19-$20

Rubie's/Amazon

Dogs and tacos are two of the internet's favorite things, so why not combine them into one? This delightful costume features a sombrero headpiece and taco bodysuit that includes all the necessary taco fixings, like lettuce, cheese, meat, tomatoes, and guac. The costume sizes range from small to XL, so no matter if your dog is best described as a mini taquito or a beefed-up burrito, they'll be able to find a perfect Halloween fit.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Wonder Woman and Superman; $15-$25

Rubie's/Amazon

All dogs are superheroes, even if their most valiant feat is greeting you at the door when you come home. Your pet can show off their inner helper in one of these officially licensed costumes from DC Comics. The Wonder Woman costume features the superheroine’s signature emblem on the back, with a sweet tiara and tutu completing the look. The Superman costume, meanwhile, is fitted with a dramatic cape that’s sure to get them an extra bone or two when going for their evening walk.

Buy it: Wonder Woman and Superman on Amazon

3. Hogwarts Outfit; $15-$16

Impoosy/Amazon

“Yer a wizard, Sparky!” Impoosy’s Hogwarts-inspired costume takes the magic of Halloween to the next level. The set has an adjustable Velcro cape, striped tie, and a pair of glasses so your pet can embrace their inner boy-who-lived (lightning bolt scar not included). As a fun bonus, the costume comes in four different colors, so your pet can sport their house colors in style … after trying on the Sorting Hat, of course.

Buy it: Amazon

4. U.S. Mail Carrier; $18-$19

California Costume Company/Amazon

If you’d rather dress your dog up as a real-life hero, try a U.S. Postal worker. Postal workers deliver the mail in spite of snow, rain, and sleet, and this clever costume will allow your pet to honor the workers who are as faithful as man’s best friend. California Costume’s Mail Carrier ensemble has a combined shirt and front legs piece with attached “arms,” which hold your dog’s special delivery via Velcro. Show your appreciation for your dog's service with a spoonful of peanut butter (your real mailperson might actually like that, too).

Buy it: Amazon

5. Any Star Wars Costume; $6-$28

Rubie's/Amazon

The Force will be with your four-legged friend this Halloween. The Star Wars collection from Rubie's has looks for all of your favorite characters, including R2-D2, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Yoda, and more. If your pet doesn’t exactly love dressing up for the holidays, the collection also includes smaller items like this Yoda ears headpiece, so they can still get in the spirit even without a full getup.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Where’s Waldo?; $25-$29

Rubie's/Chewy

Your pet will stand out in the crowd in this adorable Where’s Waldo? costume. Featuring Waldo’s iconic red and white striped sweater, beanie, and glasses, this officially licensed set is perfect on its own or for matching with a two-legged human. The hat and felt glasses include an elastic chin strap and adjustable ear loops, so your pup will stay stylish and comfortable all night long. They might not be wandering around a crowd of 500 people like their bookish counterpart, but at least they'll look great while social distancing.

Buy it: Chewy

7. Fair Isle Halloween Sweater; $14-$16

Frisco/Chewy

Whether your pet wants to keep it more casual this year or have an excuse to celebrate for the entire month of October, Frisco’s Fair Isle sweater will put the “howl” in their Halloween look. The orange and black sweater is embellished with traditional Halloween images—ghosts, Jack-O’-Lanterns, skulls, cats, bats, and gravestones—that are much more endearing than they are spooky. The sweater also contains a leash hole, so your furry pal can show off his look both inside and outside the house.

Buy it: Chewy

8. Pennywise; $18-$22

Rubie's/Chewy

There’s nothing more fun than playing with your pet, but this terrifying Pennywise costume might just make you think twice. With its sickeningly cheerful tassels and buttons, orange wig, and plush “balloon,” this costume might even scare you if your pet wears it for too long. If It isn’t your thing, check out these Freddy Kreuger and Chucky-inspired costumes to add some extra fright to your night.

Buy it: Chewy

9. Jack Skellington; $20-$22

Rubie's/Chewy

This look is the opposite of a nightmare before Christmas. Disney’s officially licensed Jack Skellington costume from Rubie’s Costume Company highlights The Pumpkin King’s classic outfit, which includes a pinstriped jacket, bat bowtie, and headpiece with a printed image of Jack’s smiling face. Despite Jack’s Christmas obsession, this look embraces his trademark style. This is Halloween, after all.

Buy it: Chewy

10. Headless Rider; $18

Frisco/Chewy

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of America’s most infamous ghost stories. Celebrate Washington Irving’s beloved folktale by turning your pet into the headless horseman’s ghoulish accomplice. This is a great option for pets who might not like getting dressed up, but who feel comfortable wearing simple thunder jackets or shirts. Simply fasten the cape around them via hook-and-loop fasteners, and presto! They’re automatically the companion of a plush, headless terror (terror being relative, in this case).

Buy it: Chewy

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