Halloween: A brief history

bannerhero
sidebar thumb

31st October 2018

by Charlotte Wilson

Categories
Communications, Halloween

Yes folks, that’s right, it is officially the spookiest day of the year today – Halloween!! Or, for the traditionalists amongst us, All-Hallows Eve, aka the day where US reality stars dress up in literally any Disney costume they want to, especially outfits with absolutely no reference to horror, ghosts or death… Americans, hey?

Well, live and let (ghosts) live, right? Halloween is a BIG event these days, and if people want to dress up as sweetness and light on a day traditionally reserved for the gothic and macabre, who are we to judge? Except, it got us thinking, what is Halloween really all about? Why do we dress up? Why do we ask strangers for sweets? Why are pumpkins scary?

Halloween is a marketers dream these days with over 9 billion being spent worldwide on the occasion – so, to understand a little bit more about how and why we celebrate such an event, we’ve dug out some little-known, interesting facts about the origins of Halloween …

This is Ancient shiz

Halloween originated nearly 2,000 years ago in Ireland. Yep, those notoriously maverick Celts entertained themselves with a festival called Samhain (pronounced, not so poetically ‘sow-in’) where they would light a bonfire, dress up and ward off evil spirits – one assumes whilst drinking an abundant amount of Guinness, obviously.

The Celts believed that this day marked the end of summer (aka the all -important harvest) and the beginning of a dark and cold winter – a time of year that they associated with human death, which is very logical if you’ve ever experienced the Irish climes in the middle of winter. So, naturally on this night, ghosts of the dead would return and, just like, completely mess up all of their crops and cause a big old mess.

To solve this very serious problem, the Celts would dress up in animal heads and skins and dance around big bonfires to ward the spirits off – as you do when naughty ghosts are ruining your livelihood and probably stealing your women etc etc.

Religion got involved

As with any fun activity that involves saucy costumes, the Church stepped up at around 609 AD and tried to drown it out with All Souls’ Day – which, to cut a long story short, attempted to shift the focus on to a respectful honouring of the dead bla bla. Well, jokes on Pope Boniface IV, because not only do we still celebrate Halloween with reckless abandon, a high percentage of people actually dress up as playboy bunnies on the night as well, just for an extra good dose of blasphemy (p.s. please don’t send me to hell for this).

Trick or Treat was actually about finding a date

Allegedly, young women in the 1800’s believed that on Halloween, you could divine the name or appearance of your future husband by doing tricks with yarn, an apple core and a mirror. Honestly, I don’t think I want to know what that trick was, but somehow between then and now, we ended up dressing up and asking strangers for food or money instead, a much, much healthier, and safer, tradition, I think you’ll all agree.

Candy cashes in

Not so long ago, rumour has it that sweets manufacturers lobbied to extend daylight saving time until the beginning of November so that children could have an extra hour of daylight more to collect sweets and chocolate. I can’t see any single ethical reason against this, can you?

Captain Kirk is the face of Halloween

Michael Myers mask from the movie Halloween was actually purchased from a local shop and was an already-made mask of William Shatner’s face. The film crew simply made some ‘modifications’ i.e. ripped it up and sewed it back together. I’m sure the entire crew of the USS Starship Enterprise are thrilled.

Pumpkin, Potato

Back to medieval Ireland and the legend of Stingy Jack. Jack was, erm, a Jack-the-lad I suppose. But instead of being a cheeky-chappy who played footy on a Saturday morning and had three girlfriends and a fake Rolex, Stingy Jack actually tricked the frickin’ devil, yes Satan himself, into climbing into an apple tree and trapped him in there. Jack’s a hero, right? WRONG. Jack was a thief and all round scoundrel, who eventually made a deal with the devil, and some things happened which I’m sure Jack doesn’t really want to get into, but anyway Jack’s soul is now barred from heaven and hell (blimey)– so he now aimlessly walks the earth with a burning coal inside of him to light his way. And so ‘jack-o’-lantern’ was born.

Originally, the Irish used to carve out potatoes and turnips and light them to make Jacks face, but then the Americans stepped it up and supersized it with the juicy pumpkin, and so here we are.

So, there you have it, some tasty little historic treats to see you off into the witching hour and perhaps give you some renewed interest in this spooky time of year.

Here at Pistachio, what we like most about Halloween is the opportunity to be creative and, most importantly, have a bit of a fun! Check out our very own Halloween spoof horror movie below that the team created not to so long ago…

Killer Creative – a film by Pistachio Design from Pistachio Design on Vimeo.

Are you thinking about how to utilise the next seasonal holiday to your brands advantage? Get in touch today to discuss your upcoming marketing communications strategy, and most importantly, watch out for that ghost!

Happy Halloween!


related stories
there's more to explore