Last updated on July 15th, 2023
Halloween is now considered as a global holiday that is celebrated by millions around the world. Given this level of popularity, you might be wondering how it came about and what led to its development. In this article, we delve deeper into the origins and other interesting facts about Halloween.
1. Halloween happens every evening of the 31st of October. It marks the start of Allhallowtide, a series of Christian holidays meant to remember the dead such as loved ones, saints, and martyrs.
2. In several Hispanic countries, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, takes place from 31 October to 2 November.
3. Current Halloween customs can be traced to the pagan traditions of ancient Celtics, particularly the festival called “Samhain” which means summer’s end. It is part of their preparation for the gloomy winter.
4. Celtics believed that the boundary with the Otherworld is weaker during Samhain, allowing spirits to pass through and walk among us. People left food offerings outside their homes to appease the spirits.
5. By the 1500s, the festival began to include costumes and house-to-house visits. Young people impersonated the spirits, recited verses, and sang songs in exchange for food. Households obliged to receive good fortune.
6. “Halloween” first appeared in Christian writings around 1745. It is a shortened form of the term Hallows evening, referring to the vigils and other activities the night before All Hallows Day (also called All Saints Day).
7. Most celebrations of saints and martyrs were held from spring to summer. In 837, Pope Gregory IV moved All Saints Day to November 1 which coincides with Samhain. This was a practical decision to decongest Rome from pilgrims during summers.
8. By the 1100s, the festivities included street parades with criers in black asking people to remember the dead. Homes baked soul cakes marked with a cross and gave these out in exchange for prayers. Shakespeare mentioned this souling tradition in his play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”.
9. Although most people consider Halloween as major US holiday, it did not reach mainstream consciousness in North America until the 1800s. Mass immigration of Scottish and Irish people allowed their traditions to flourish here.
10. New York’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is the largest of its kind in the world. It features over 50,000 participants in costume. Millions of spectators turn up each year to cheer them on throughout Manhattan.
11. In the Middle Ages, Christians would carry carved out turnips turned into lanterns while going around homes for traditional souling. These lanterns are thought to symbolize the souls of the dead.
12. Fires, such as those burning from jack-o’-lanterns, were thought to prevent demons from haunting homes and guide wandering souls back to their families. People roaming during the night could also ward off evil spirits.
13. While Ireland and Scotland preferred turnips, US immigrants used native pumpkins instead. These were larger, softer, and easier to access. Pumpkin carving was a common harvest time tradition before being linked to Halloween.
14. The state of Illinois produces roughly 90 to 95% of the USA’s pumpkins – around 500 million pounds.
15. A popular Irish folktale explains the origin of the jack-o’-lantern. It is said to contain the soul of a person who was denied entry to both heaven and hell, condemning him to roam forever.
16. The most jack-o’-lanterns on display at one time was 30,581 on 19 October 2013 in Keene, New Hampshire.
17. The heaviest jack-o’-lantern in the world was carved from a massive pumpkin weighing 2,684 lbs (1,217.5 kg). This monstrous pumpkin was grown by Italian Stefano Cutrupi and the record was set on 6 November 2021.
18. Another enduring image of the holiday is the skull. This is a reminder of death and the fragility of life. In the Christian tradition, it is a reference to Golgotha where Jesus was crucified.
19. Trick-or-treating comes from the medieval practice of mumming in which costumed actors parade on the streets and perform in homes. Aside from Hallows Eve, they also did this on other feast days like Christmas, Shrove Tuesday, and Twelfth Night.
20. As for the term “trick or treat”, the first printed mention was in 1927 also in Canada. It was from the newspaper Blackie Herald based in Alberta.
21. The first recorded instance of “guising” in North America was in 1911. A regional Canadian newspaper from Kinston, Ontario published an article about children disguising in costume as they roam for food or coins around their neighbourhood.
22. The city of Bathurst in Canada banned teenagers over the age of 16 from trick-or- treating, and a citywide curfew for all residents of 8 p.m. is in place to ensure pranks and mischief was avoided. Those caught breaking the rules are fined $200.
23. Children were often seen in Halloween postcards from the early 1900s but they weren’t tricking or treating. The practice only became widespread in the US during the late 1930s.
24. In rural areas where homes are spread far apart, a safer alternative known as trunk-or- treating is often arranged. Kids can ask for treats from decorated cars filled with goodies in a church or school parking lot.
25. The earliest literary works on the subject comes from Scotland where poet John Mayne wrote about the pranks and the supernatural elements of the holiday back in 1780.
26. The Middle Ages was a difficult period for all, including churches that did not have resources to display saintly relics. They let their parishioners dress up as these saints and go around instead.
27. Putting on costumes for Halloween parties is an early 20th century development in North America. People poke fun at the things they fear including ghosts and monsters. Over time, options moved beyond the supernatural such as notable celebrities, fictional characters, and other themes.
28. From 1909, the Dennison Manufacturing Company produced Halloween costumes, decorations, and invitations, increasing the popularity of Halloween.
29. In 2022, roughly 69% of Americans dressed up for and participated in Halloween festivities.
30. Although it’s quite popular at Halloween, Silly String has been banned in Hollywood, and if you get caught using Silly String on Halloween, you can receive a $1,000 fine.
31. Master escape artist Harry Houdini died on Halloween of 1926 from a ruptured appendix, but many of the circumstances surrounding his demise remain mysterious to this day.
32. Pets are part of the family so they can’t be left behind. In 2018, Americans collectively spent roughly $480 million on Halloween costumes for their pets. It is a massive increase from the $200 million estimate back in 2010.
33. In Ireland, it was customary for unmarried women to gaze into a mirror at night during Halloween to see the face of their future husband. Sometimes a skull might appear to signify that the person will pass away before marriage.
34. Halloween bonfires were also used to determine mortality. After the fire dies, individuals will each place a ring of stones on the ashes. They believed mislaid stones foretold imminent death for the associated persons.
35. Another Irish Halloween tradition involves hiding small items in food and serving these randomly. Fortunes depend on the item obtained. A coin predicts wealth, a ring signifies marriage, and so on.
36. The first Halloween-themed attraction opened in 1915 in England. It was called the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, a steam-powered carnival fun house. It continues to be displayed as part of the Hollycombe Steam Collection.
37. In the US, the San Mateo Haunted House began its operation in 1957. This was soon followed by other major attractions that proved so popular that the haunted house became a cultural phenomenon.
38. In 1984, the fatal fire at the Haunted Castle in New Jersey led to tighter safety regulations, new building codes, and more inspections. Smaller venues could not handle the higher expenses so many of them folded. Bigger commercial attractions dominated.
39. The longest haunted house in the world is Dragon’s House of Horror, which is 7,183 feet (2,189.59 meters) long. This haunted house is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico and earned this status in November 2015.
40. By the late 1980s, famous theme parks like Six Flags, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Knott’s Berry Farm began to hold annual Halloween events that draw large crowds. The decorations, attractions, and live events are tweaked to align with the season. These contributed to the globalization of the holiday.
41. Rhode Island plays host to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular every year and has over 6,000 jack o’lanterns. It attracts around 140,000 visitors annually.
42. Halloween comes right after the annual apple harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s no surprise that apple-based treats are popular during the holiday. These include candy apples in which the whole fruit is covered in sugar syrup and rolled in nuts.
43. Unfortunately, the practice of giving out candy apples faded due to nasty rumors of dangerous embedded items. The reality is that cases were extremely rare and usually traced to the children’s own parents according to research from the University of Delaware.
44. It is also common to bake or order a Halloween cake with a spooky design fit for the occasion. These usually come on black, white, and orange but other colors may be injected as well. They often feature jack-o’-lanterns, skulls, ghosts, cobwebs, bones, bats, and other well-known symbols of the holiday.
45. In some Christian denominations, people are encouraged to go on a fast or abstain from meat. This increases the demand for vegetarian dishes such as colcannon in Ireland. It can be described as a combination of mashed potato and kale or cabbage.
46. The annual Halloween expenditure in the United States was projected at $8 billion in Around $2.6 billion of that went into costumes. The average consumer will spend $92 for Halloween-related items.
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