A Haunting Halloween

Halloween is often as a ‘trick-or-treat’ episode complete with candies and treats for children or a ‘costume party’ for teenagers and youths. Millions of people worldwide celebrate Halloween without knowing its origins and myths, and these only make the holiday more interesting and fascinating. Today’s history lesson will be on how Halloween came into existence, followed by a list of 15 fun trivia facts of Halloween. Are you ready for the scare of your life?

The Origins of Halloween

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Celebrate Happy Halloween this Friday on October 31, 2014. Photo by Clink Hostels.

The word ‘Halloween‘ derived from the old words of ‘All Hallows Eve‘ because it took place on the eve of All Hallows Day which falls on November 1. ‘Hallow‘ is an old word for ‘saint‘ and because November 1 is known as ‘All Saints Day‘, thus Halloween is always celebrated on October 31. It is one of the oldest holidays still celebrated today, and one of the most popular holidays in the world, sccond to Christmas.

The Halloween culture can be traced back to the Druids, a Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain, and Northern Europe, over 2,000 years ago. Its roots lay in the annual feast of Samhain on October 31 to honour the dead. The feast signified the ‘end of summer’ or in this case, the starting of the month of November. Samhain was a harvest festival with huge scared bonfires that marked the end of the Celtic year and the start of a new one. The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages at night. But not all spirits were friendly, so treats were put out to pacify evil and ensure next year’s crops would be plentiful. This custom soon evolved into trick-or-treating that kids enjoy so much today!

Different cultures view Halloween differently but traditional practices remain the same. It as a time for fun, costume parties, and trick-or-treating, or as a time of superstition, ghosts, witches, and spirits that should be avoided. Just remember that celebrating Halloween is a preference, not as participating in an evil holiday. However Halloween is celebrated, there is no references tie this holiday to pagan rituals or occults.

Now we’d like to share a compilation of 15 HALLOWEEN FUN FACTS with you:

  1. Colours of Halloween: Orange because it is associated with the Fall harvest, and black because it is associated with darkness and death.
  2. Birth of Halloween: Ireland is thought to be the birth place of Halloween over 2,000 years ago.
  3. Ye Olde Jack o’ Lantern: The first Jack o’ Lantern originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep spirits and ghosts away.
  4. Significant Spiders: If you see a spider on Halloween, it could be the spirit of a loved one watching over you.
  5. Second Best: Halloween is the second most commercially celebrated and successful holiday after Christmas.
  6. Costume Parties: As spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night, people wore masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as humans and possibly brought the idea of dressing up on Halloween.
  7. Meow Factor: Black cats were once believed to be witches’ familiars who protected their powers.
  8. Feline Frenzy: A superstitious belief of how black cats came to existence when people thought that witches would turn themselves into these black cats to avoid detection.
  9. A Scary Affair: The intense and persistent fear of Halloween suffered by an individual is known as ‘Samhainophobia’.
  10. Evolution of Trick-or-Treat: This custom evolved from the Celtic practice when treats and food were put out to pacify and placate the evil spirits who roamed the streets of Samhain.
  11. Annual Candy Revenue: Candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States during the Halloween period.
  12. Witch-nessing at Midnight: According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.
  13. Asian Halloween Celebrations: Known as the ‘Festival of the Hungry Ghosts’, lanterns are lit to guide spirits back home, and food and gifts are offered to please the spirits.
  14. Hocus Pocus: The famous magician Harry Houdini (1874-1926) died on the night of Halloween.
  15. Story of Jack: Based on an Irish legend, Jack o’ Lanterns were named after a stingy man called Jack, who played tricks on the Devil several times, and was forbidden entrance into both Heaven and Hell by God and the Devil, respectively. He was condemned to wander the Earth, waving his lantern to lead people away from their paths.

So, did you enjoy our little trick-or-treat 15 Fun Trivia Facts of Halloween today?

Oktoberfest 2014: Bottom’s Up!

The time to drink and be merry has arrived once again in Munich, Germany, as the Oktoberfest kicks into full gear. The German locals as well as those who travelled far to participate in the Oktoberfest can feast on a smorgasbord of food served the traditional way, and washed down with big mugs of German beer!

The Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival held annually in Munich for 16 days and attracts over six million people every year. About 1.5 million gallons of beer are consumed, together with 200,000 pairs of pork sausages and 480,000 spit-roasted chickens during the two-week extravaganza. My goodness, that’s a lot of food! The festival reinforces a stereotypical image of beer-loving, meat-loving Germans who dress for the occasion in dirndls and lederhosen, but most of the party-loving people are made up of visitors from all over the world. The Oktoberfest is one of Munich’s largest and most profitable tourist attractions, bringing over 450 million euros to the city’s bank books each year!

Did you know…

… that the largest Oktoberfest held outside Germany takes place annually in the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterlook in Canada? That’s the residence to a large ethnic German population.

Did you also know…

… that the largest such event in the United States is the Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati in Ohio, which boasts half a million visitors each year! Phew!

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Oktoberfest: A festival of food, fun, and frolic under the beer tents. Photo by DrinkStuff (Beer Festivals).

The Origins of Oktoberfest

The first Oktoberfest began on October 12, 1810 after the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (who became King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in Bavaria. Five days after the marriage, a large festival was held in front of the Sendlinger Tor, one of the gates leading to Munich. The festivities included horse races that eventually became an Oktoberfest custom until 1938. An agricultural fair was added in 1811, and the first carousel, two swings, and beer pubs were included in 1818 along with performers. Oktoberfest gradually became a great tourist attraction and a way for visitors to learn about Bavaria and its people. In 1887, lederhosen and dirndls became the traditional attire of the Oktoberfest attendees. Beer tents and halls set up by enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries replaced the beer stands in 1896.

The Festivities of Oktoberfest

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Horse-drawn brewer carts during the Oktoberfest parade. Photo by The Travel Republic Blog.

The festival may have begun in October, but it is now held in September as the weather is milder then as compared to October. The festival lasts for 16 days, beginning on a Saturday in late September and ending on the first Sunday in October. Oktoberfest traditionally begins with a parade before noon, which includes the participation of the mayor and other civic leaders, followed by horse-drawn brewer’s carts, bands, and the townspeople wearing their costumes. The parade ends at the oldest private beer tent, the Schottenhammel tent, where the mayor opens the first keg of beer to kickstart the festival, and the toasting begins. The opening ceremonies are usually attended by more than 7,000,000 people.

The remainder of the festival site provides the space for a funfair. At the foot of the Bavaria Statue, there are carousels, roller coasters, and all the spectacular carnival rides for the enjoyment and excitement of the public. The festivities are often accompanied by music and dancing, followed by a program of events, including the Grand Entry of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Costume and Riflemen’s Procession, and a concert that involves all the brass bands represented at the “Wiesn”.

The Grub and Beer of Oktoberfest

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The big mugs of beer at the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Photo by Jillian Wilson (uwishunu).

The festivities are not just the highlight of the Oktoberfest. The endless flow of beer and the wide array of food prepared for the partygoers make up the rest of the festival. The Oktoberfest beer is an amber-gold coloured lager with six percent alcohol with the addition of German hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang. Six major Munich brewers known to take part in the festival are Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Spaten, Hofbrauhaus, Augustiner, and Paulaner. They can be found in the seven halls where live music can be heard from all throughout the day. The variety of food served during the Oktoberfest is far and wide, and includes meat such as beef, chicken, veal, and pork, as well as sauerkraut, potato salad, cabbage, onions, and pretzels.

This has been an entertaining Oktoberfest session, don’t you think? All this talk about food and drinks has made me hungry. For all the beer-lovers out there, we have posters on them as well as the country where Oktoberfest and beers originate from, and not to mention, our favourite cartoon character, Homer Simpson! He who drinks the most beer and still lives to tell his tale. Drop by our physical store at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus or our Facebook page to get your beery posters!

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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

When I was young, I used to believe that mooncakes were made in the shape of moons, and designed and coloured to look like moons. What I never found out was whether they tasted like moons. How was I to know? I never landed on the moon before. Neither did I take a bite out of the moon. So how is it possible that mooncakes are even related to the moon? Because this festival is known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival or Moon Festival. Depending on which Chinese fairytale you were told as a child.

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Plain mooncake by the Tai Thong group. Photo by SQ Lee Photography.

As the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival, many of its legends are often related to the moon. There have been a number of ancient Chinese folklore stories that have been told time and time again to children. But there is one particular Chinese fairytale that stands out from the many stories that were told.

The Legend of Chang E

The story of Chang E is perhaps the most widely accepted tale regarding the moon and the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

During the ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky and the intense heat caused the harvest to wither and dry up, as a result, the people’s lives suffered. The Emperor ordered Hou Yi to shoot down nine of the ten suns in the sky. Owing to Hou Yi’s great strength, he shot down nine suns and became the hero of the town. Upon hearing this amazing feat and the hero who performed it, people came far and wide to learn from him. Peng Meng was among these people who came to see this spectacular hero. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind-hearted woman named Chang E and lived a happy life.

One day, Hou Yi came upon Wangmu (the Queen of Heaven) on the way to meet his old friend. Wangmu presented him with an elixir that would allow him to ascend immediately to heaven and become a god. Instead of drinking the potion, Hou Yi took it home and kept it. Unfortunately, Peng Meng had seen the potion that Hou Yi had kept. He approached Chang E while Hou Yi was away and demanded that she hand over the elixir. Chang E refused and drank the elixir. Almost immediately after drinking it, she flew out the window and up into the sky. Chang E’s great love for her husband Hou Yi drew her towards the Moon, which is located nearest to Earth, and she became a goddess.

After he learnt what had happened to his wife, Hou Yi was so aggrieved that he shouted her name to the sky and was amazed to see a figure resembling his wife appearing in the Moon. He brought his wife’s favourite food and offered it as a sacrifice for her at the altar. The news spread like wildfire, and soon, the townspeople also began offering sacrifices to Chang E to pray for peace and good luck.

Story from: Travel China Guide

Thus began the custom of sacrificing to the Moon. Thus began the custom of consuming mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Have you had your mooncakes yet? Here’s a tip: Buy some and give them to your family and friends. They will reciprocate and give some back to you. Voila! Everyone has some mooncakes, and everyone can start eating their mooncakes. How’s that for a happy ending? Some people say that the Mid-Autumn Festival is also associated with lanterns, some calling it the Lantern Festival. So guys and girls, time to light up the lanterns too, and let’s all celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival tomorrow night!