Things you never knew about Halloween


The Milestone Hotel’s Head Chef, Ryan O’Flynn, has been busy preparing his Halloween menu – and he’s discovered some frightening facts in the process. Read more…


18th October 2010

Red Carnation Hotels
Ryan OFlynn

Ryan o'Flynn

The scariest thing about Halloween?  How much it costs!

Halloween is big where I come from – North America.  South of the border (I was born and raised in Canada) it’s frighteningly big.  The US National Retail Federation expects 68.5 million citizens will spend about $1.63 billion on Halloween decorations alone!  That’s roughly a billion pounds sterling (the amount the UK government spent on drugs to combat a swine flu epidemic that never happened!).

Total US spending on Halloween?  $5.8 billion, or 3.6 billion in sterling.   About 40% of citizens will buy a costume, and over 11% will even dress up their pets!

Scary, eh?  But the whole thing started on this side of the pond.  Probably with the Irish.  And I should know…with a name like O’Flynn.

It can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”. The name is derived from Old Irish and roughly means “summer’s end”.   Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year”.

So where did all this stuff about ghosts and evil spirits come from?
The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off by the wearing of costumes and masks.



Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.  Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

When did it become known as Halloween?

The word Halloween first appears in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Up through the early 20th century, the spelling “Hallowe’en” was frequently used, eliding the “v” and shortening the word.


Halloween Costumes

Trick or treat”.  Where did that come from? 

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.

Can you read the future on Halloween?

Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination.  A traditional Scottish form of divining one’s future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one’s shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse’s name.  Unmarried women were told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear.

What am I going to be doing on Halloween?

I’ll be preparing my special Halloween Menu at Chenestons, featuring such delights as Dracula’s pan-fried fillet of brill with Cornish crab crust and lobster sauce, and traditional Pumpkin pie with ginger ice cream.  For the special Halloween menus being served at our sister hotels, The Montague on the Gardens, The Chesterfield Mayfair and The Rubens at the Palace, just click on their names.  Finally, if you want to experience Halloween West Palm Beach style why not pop over to Red Carnation’s other Chesterfield Hotel?

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