Brittany Slick & Keri Thomas
As a kid, you are told to never take candy from strangers, never go out after dark, and never use a knife that’s not a butter knife. All of these rules are thrown out the window on one specific day of the year – Halloween.
Halloween has some of the strangest traditions of any holiday, yet it is still one of the most popular holidays to partake in. But, why is that? Throughout the years, the customs have developed, now taking on new purposes and meanings. This has made the holiday less dark, and more enjoyable for all the candy-lovers and costume fanatics.
Then: According to Matt Soniak from MentalFloss.com, the tradition of carving Jack-O-Lanterns came from the old legend of Stingy Jack who, after a life of mischief, was punished by having to wander earth as a ghost. People would carve ugly faces in turnips to ward Jack away.
Now: Pumpkin carving today is seen as a fun, family event where kids carve cute faces into pumpkins and put them out as decoration.
Then: Wearing scary costumes on halloween came from the idea that on this night, dead spirits walked the earth. Dressing up was a way to disguise yourself so the ghosts wouldn’t bother you.
Now: Finding a Halloween costume every year now is a fun way to be creative or become one of your favorite movie characters.
Then: On Halloween night or All Souls Day, people believed souls would be wandering the earth before going to the afterlife. The tradition of setting out food for the spirits as they would travel through, turned into what we call Trick or Treating.
Now: Trick or Treating is the main event on Halloween night for kids; full of running around with friends to go get unnecessary amounts of candy from neighbors.
Then: Originally, a black cat was the symbol of the devil. Since cats were household pets, people started assuming the owner of a black cat to be a witch, which they used to help them perform black magic.
Now: Black cats are considered a sign of bad luck, but during Halloween they are used as decorations and banners as a symbol of this not-so-scary night.
Then: The traditional black and orange colors of Halloween came from the idea that October 31st marked the end of the autumn harvest (orange) and the beginning of a dark and cold winter (black).
Now: Although everything is still covered in these colors, nobody really remembers their origin. The colors just sort of stuck.
So why do we still include these crazy traditions in the 21st century? We, as a society, have monetized and commercialized the Halloween holiday, alike all others. The scaring is supposed to be thrilling. The haunted houses and costumes are supposed to be funny. When we carve pumpkins and light them, we aren’t thinking of it as warding off evil spirits. Like wrapping Christmas presents, their only purpose now is entertainment and decoration. We have turned a dark and scary day into a light-hearted parody of its past purpose, making it only more fun and entertaining to society.