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Did You Know? 5 Cool Facts About Halloween

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Every year, we dress up, light jack-o-lanterns and celebrate Halloween at the end of October. But where did the holiday come from?

Some Halloween traditions date all the way back to the Celtic holiday Samhain. Stony Brook University’s Dr. Tara Rider explains the connection.

“Ultimately, Christianity, at least Irish Christianity, absorbed a lot of the pagan elements. And if you travel to Ireland, you’ll see that Christian holy sites are often associated with pagan holy sites.”

One such element taken from Samhain is lighting jack-o-lanterns.

Rider says, “Pumpkins are a very New World plant if we think about it, but if you go back, they actually used to carve lanterns out of radishes, small potatoes, things like that.”

Another is the focus on ghosts and the dead coming back, which could be a good thing if loved ones came back, but…“If you had murdered someone, they’re going to come back, too. Now that might be a time you want to start running because that’s when they would come back to haunt you. This, if you think about it, is the root of modern Halloween stories, when all the demons come out to play,” Rider says.

Dressing up as a monster also comes from Samhain since people would try to ward off creatures by dressing as them.

Trick-or-treating, however, is not a Celtic tradition. It is based on the Christian practice of souling, when the poor would go house-to-house begging for food in exchange for prayers to the dead on All Saints’ Day.