Halloween History & Traditions

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Halloween Traditions

Check out the background and history of some of today's more popular Halloween traditions, as well as some that may surprise you.

1. Trick-or-treating. Where did we get the tradition of dressing in costumes to ask for goodies? Beggars in Ireland began the tradition centuries ago when they made the rounds to visit the rich and ask for money (and threaten them with evil spirits if they didn't give!). In some neighborhoods, trick-or-treaters must recite a riddle to get a treat.

2. A new twist on tradition. This year marks the 51st anniversary of trick-or-treating for UNICEF. In 1950, a group of youngsters in Philadelphia used decorated milk cartons to collect money. The kids sent the money to UNICEF to help the world's other children. The tradition still carries on today. To learn more about giving, check out their Internet site.

3. Jack-o'-lanterns. Like Halloween, the tradition of carving pumpkins comes from the Celts. According to legend, a miserly man named Jack was doomed to wander the earth after he died. He carried a lantern carved out of a turnip. He was "Jack-o'-lantern." On All Hallows Eve, the Irish and Scots carried similar lanterns.

4. Witches on broomsticks and black cats. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that witches were especially dangerous, because on Halloween night they could fly to meet with the devil. Some people believed their pet black cats were witches transformed or even the dead come back to life.

5. Halloween and a sneeze. Why do people say "God bless you" when you sneeze? The Welsh believed that a sneeze blew the soul right out of the body. If someone sneezed on Halloween, people would bless one another to keep the devil from capturing the soul.


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