Halloween Decorations and Costumes Through the Ages
Year after year, we enjoy our fun and even scary traditions, but have you ever stopped to consider how Halloween became synonymous with Jack-O-Lanterns, skeletons, and creepy costumes?

As soon as autumn hits, that crispness in the air sets people’s minds in motion for the Fall holidays. People make trips to the pumpkin patch, Jack-O-Lanterns are carved, and kids eagerly anticipate that single night of the year they’re allowed to run amok and earn bagfuls of candy. In the meantime, don’t forget about your decor! Halloween bunting is a bold and classy way to start setting the backdrop for your spooky decorations.

Year after year, we enjoy our fun and even scary traditions, but have you ever stopped to consider how Halloween became synonymous with Jack-O-Lanterns, skeletons, and creepy costumes? Learn all about the rich and interesting history surrounding this holiday, and how it all became interconnected.

Jack-o-lanterns: A Spooky Foundation

Halloween wasn’t always considered a fun and exciting holiday by young children. You can trace its deepest origins back to the ancient pagan festival known as Samhain (pronounced Sawh-en). The Celtic people who participated in this festival believed that the transition from fall to winter created a unique opportunity for the souls of the dead to return to earth.

In order to protect themselves from these spirits, they placed specific objects in and around their homes. This includes special lanterns made from vegetables that had been cut to resemble spooky faces. Because these early traditions were based out of Ireland and Scotland, they used turnips and potatoes instead since gourds and pumpkins are not native to that region.

Jack-O-Lanterns even got their name from a tale of an ornery old drunk named Stingy Jack who loved playing tricks and deceiving people, including his own mother. According to legend, Stingy Jack even crossed the devil himself and managed to trick Old Nick a couple of times over. When Stingy Jack died, he was not allowed into Heaven because of his track record of bad behavior. However, since he had duped the devil in life not to ever take him to Hell, Stingy Jack was refused there as well. Jack was desperate and asked, “Well, where will I go?” to which the devil replied, “Back where you came from!” He pleaded for some light at least and the devil tossed a burning ember his way. All Jack had was a turnip, his favorite snack. He hollowed it out, placed the ember inside, and roamed the earthly darkness for eternity with his little turnip lighting the way.

This tale is the oldest known explaining the jack-o-lantern tradition. Throughout time, this fun practice has changed to include primarily gourds like pumpkins. It is a practice that has remained strong for many decades in the US.

Looking Like the Dead

Skeletons are also a common sight during Halloween. This is because the very nature of the holiday – celebrating the dead – lends itself to the use of skeletons. Many ancient Celts would use the skull in regular decorating, while the practice would increase around the Samhain festival. Anything the people could do to both celebrate the dead and prevent themselves from being noticed by the returning spirits was considered a wise practice. For this reason, dressing up like a skeleton and looking as dead as possible became a regular occurrence around that time. The same occurred with ghosts, goblins and other creatures associated with the dead or afterlife. In the past few decades, people even started including their pets in this practice, dressing them up with fun, spooky and hilarious costumes.

Halloween Today

Especially in the U.S., Halloween today is viewed as much more of a family holiday than ever before. People put up Halloween bunting, silly skeletons in comical poses, laughing ghosts and other fun decorations in order to make them more appropriate for younger observers. The older crowd also enjoy their scares as well with haunted houses, frightening Halloween movies, and scary costumes.

In Ireland where Samhain originated, children also enjoy dressing in costumes for an evening of trick-or-treating, and then parties with family and friends after. In rural areas, bonfires are lit just as the days of the Celts. The Irish also prepare a traditional bread from the days of Samhain called barmbrack or just brack to go with today’s Halloween holiday. Baked into this bread are dried fruit and candied peel, but also objects such as a ring, a coin, a thimble, and a piece of cloth, etc. Each family member gets a slice of bread, and if a person receives an object in their slice, it foretells a piece of their future. For example, the coin suggests a person would come into money; a ring predicts marriage in the near future; a thimble predicts the person will never marry; the piece of cloth indicates the person will be poor, and so on.

For Halloween or any holiday you’d love to set up a bold and festive display, check out Independence Bunting’s selection of Halloween pull-downs, pleated fans, bunting, and more! Explore our website or give us a call, 800-995-9129 for more information.