Corn mazes, pumpkins and more: Why fall is the best time of the year, and the history behind our favorite traditions

This should get you into an autumn mood!

Halloween is right around the corner. (Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels)

Halloween is a treasured holiday that kids and adults enjoy every year.

The festivities run the gamut: They can include enjoying pumpkin pie and hot cider as trick-or-treaters run door to door in colorful costumes, and people curling up at home with a scary movie. You could visit a haunted house, or indulge in a fun get-together with friends and family.

Many people start getting into the spooky spirit once October rolls around, but they might not know the stories behind Halloween or the traditions and activities in which they take part.

For instance, why do we carve faces into pumpkins, where did corn mazes come from, and how did this fun and frightening holiday end up on our calendars as a staple of autumn excitement for all ages?

We will answer these questions to get you in the mood for Halloween.

Where do corn mazes come from?

Fall is the perfect time to have fun exploring a corn maze, and rural communities are famous for plotting out paths in their crops. Mazes and labyrinths have a long history, stretching back to Greek mythology and the story of the Minotaur. People have created mazes in the earth, pebbles and hedges, and the hedge maze concept got translated over to corn, America’s staple crop.

Corn mazes go back to 1993 when Don Franz and Adrian Fisher designed and built the first one in East-Central Pennsylvania at Lebanon Valley College. Those who create corn mazes tend to cut them in particular shapes, differing from traditional geometric patterns of the hedge mazes.

Have you visited a maze? DeBuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch has a cool setup, and they’re located in right Belleville.

How did Halloween start?

Halloween has its origin in Samhain, a Celtic festival in Ireland and Britain celebrating the start of their new year on Nov. 1. The people in this area considered this date the beginning of winter. During the Samhain festival, people believed the souls of the dead would visit their homes while those who died that year would travel to the otherworld. The living lit fires on hilltops to scare away evil spirits and sometimes wore disguises and masks so that ghosts wouldn’t recognize them.

The name “Halloween” is a contraction for All Hallows’ Eve, the evening before All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day. People throughout North America and much of Europe celebrate Halloween every year, and witches, demons, fairies, hobgoblins and the like became associated with it.

Why do we carve Jack-o-Lanterns?

Jack-o-Lanterns are a classic component of Halloween. People adorn their driveways and porches with pumpkins of all sizes to greet candy seekers with their silly, sappy and scary glowing faces.

These festive features have a long history with the holiday, and originally served as more than a decoration. In fact, pumpkins were not the initial plant choice to carve.

The story behind carving pumpkins comes from an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack. He tricked the devil for monetary gain, and when he died, Jack wasn’t allowed into heaven or hell. Instead, he was sentenced to wander the earth for eternity. People in Ireland scared away Jack’s roaming soul by carving turnips into demonic faces. As Irish immigrants traveled to the United States, they carved pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns since they were native to the area.

And it wouldn’t be fall without cider and doughnuts.

It’s kind of like autumn’s take on milk with cookies: Cider and doughnuts.

“Farm stands have been around forever, and cider donuts harken back to New England Fall and the changing leaves,” one food writer and culinary historian told NPR.

Stories vary as to how exactly cider started pairing with the doughnuts, but it’s a delicious combination, is it not? There’s nothing better than a cold, crisp glass of cider to help wash down the delicious (but sometimes oily) treats, hot from the fryer. If you’re visiting a fall destination this season, you’ll definitely want to go somewhere that serves cider and doughnuts.

Now that you know some of the history behind Halloween and a couple of the holiday’s staple activities, you can enjoy the seasonal festivities, and with stories to tell your friends and family. You can make the most of this annual celebration of all things spooky and scary with events and activities happening throughout the area.

For instance, DeBuck’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch has provided locals and visitors a fun destination for more than 10 years, with 15 acres of corn maze and 20 acres of pumpkins.

This family farm has two generations of DeBucks farming the land, and they offer other fun activities like a super slide, swings, jump pad, corn box and double trouble slide. Learn more.