Halloween Holiday Trivia and Fun Facts
Origins and History
– Halloween is on October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar. It was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back to over 2000 years ago.
– Halloween is thought to have originated around 4000 B.C., which means Halloween has been around for over 6,000 years.
– Ireland is typically believed to be the birthplace of Halloween.
– Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
– The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
– “Halloween” is short for “Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallows’ Evening,” which was the evening before All Hallows’ (sanctified or holy) Day or Hallowmas on November 1. In an effort to convert pagans, the Christian church decided that Hallowmas or All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2) should assimilate sacred pagan holidays that fell on or around October 31.
– With their link to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (a precursor to Halloween) and later to witches, cats have a permanent place in Halloween folklore. During the ancient celebration of Samhain, Druids were said to throw cats into a fire, often in wicker cages, as part of divination proceedings.
– Halloween has variously been called All Hallows’ Eve, Witches Night, Lamswool, Snap-Apple Night, Samhaim, and Summer’s End.
– Halloween was influenced by the ancient Roman festival Pomona, which celebrated the harvest goddess of the same name. Many Halloween customs and games that feature apples (such as bobbing for apples) and nuts date from this time. In fact, in the past, Halloween has been called San-Apple Night and Nutcrack Night.
– During the pre-Halloween celebration of Samhain, bonfires were lit to ensure the sun would return after the long, hard winter. Often Druid priests would throw the bones of cattle into the flames and, hence, “bone fire” became “bonfire.”
– Dressing up as ghouls and other spooks originated from the ancient Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits. The Celts believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain.
– The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” In fact, wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.
– Black and orange are typically associated with Halloween. Orange is a symbol of strength and endurance and, along with brown and gold, stands for the harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder that Halloween once was a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death.
– Scarecrows, a popular Halloween fixture, symbolize the ancient agricultural roots of the holiday.
– Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
– Pumpkins also come in white, blue and green. Great for unique monster carvings!
– Boston, Massachusetts, holds the record for the most Jack O’Lanterns lit at once (30,128).
– According to Irish legend, Jack O’Lanterns are named after a stingy man named Jack who, because he tricked the devil several times, was forbidden entrance into both heaven and hell. He was condemned to wander the Earth, waving his lantern to lead people away from their paths.
– The largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by Norm Craven, who broke the world record in 1993 with a 836 lb. pumpkin.
– Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.
– Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.
– “Souling” is a medieval Christian precursor to modern-day trick-or-treating. On Hallowmas (November 1), the poor would go door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for soul cakes.
– Trick-or-treating harks back to the Middle Ages and All Souls’ Day, when poor people in Britain would beg for soul cakes, a sweet-bread treat, and pray for dead relatives in return.
– The first known mention of trick-or-treating in print in North America occurred in 1927 in Blackie, Alberta, Canada.
– When trick-or-treating first became popular in the United States in the 1800s, more children played mischievous pranks than asked for candy. By the 1950s, though, the focus had switched to good old family fun, with sugar-hyped children dressed in costumes.
– The candy-collecting tradition has spread from the United States to Canada, Australia, and Western Europe, where more and more little goblins now trick-or-treat. In parts of England, children carry lanterns called punkies (which look like jack-o’-lanterns) and parade through the town on the last Thursday of October. In Ireland, rural neighborhoods light bonfires, and children play snap apple, in which they try to take a bite from apples that are hung by strings from a tree or a door frame.
– Chocolate makes up about three-quarters of a trick-or-treater’s loot, according to the National Confectioners Association.
– In the event that the spoils aren’t scarfed down whole hog, separate chocolate out and keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. Milk chocolate is good for no more than 8 to 10 months, while dark lasts up to two years. Hard candy will also keep in a cool, dry place for about a year. Store soft candies in a covered dish away from direct heat and light. Enjoy them within six months.
– Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.
– Fifty percent of kids prefer to receive chocolate candy for Halloween, compared with 24% who prefer non-chocolate candy and 10% who preferred gum.
– Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers as #1.
– Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
– Candy corn has been made with the same recipe by the Jelly Belly Candy Company since around 1900.
– What’s in that recipe, exactly? Sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow.
– One serving (about 30 pieces) has 140 calories, the equivalent of three miniature Hershey bars.
– The National Confectioners Association reports that more than 35 million pounds were manufactured in 2005, amounting to almost 9 billion kernels.
– Both Salem, Massachusetts, and Anoka, Minnesota, are the self-proclaimed Halloween capitals of the world.
– The Village Halloween parade in New York City is the largest Halloween parade in the United States. The parade includes 50,000 participants and draws over 2 million spectators.
– Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.
– The National Retail Federation expects consumers in 2010 to spend $66.28 per person—which would be a total of approximately $5.8 billion—on Halloween costumes, cards, and candy. That’s up from $56.31 in 2009 and brings spending back to 2008 levels.
– According to the National Retail Federation, 40.1% of those surveyed plan to wear a Halloween costume in 2010. In 2009, it was 33.4%. Thirty-three percent will throw or attend a party.
– In 2010, 72.2% of those surveyed by the National Retail Federation will hand out candy, 46.3% will carve a pumpkin, 20.8% will visit a haunted house, and 11.5% will dress up their pets.
– The Ouija Board ended up outselling the game of Monopoly in its first full year at Salem. Over two million copies of the Ouija Board were shipped
– In many countries, such as France and Australia, Halloween is seen as an unwanted and overly commercial American influence.
– Teng Chieh or the Lantern Festival is one Halloween festival in China. Lanterns shaped like dragons and other animals are hung around houses and streets to help guide the spirits back to their earthly homes. To honor their deceased loved ones, family members leave food and water by the portraits of their ancestors.
– Halloween celebrations in Hong Kong are known as Yue Lan or the “Festival of the Hungry Ghosts” during which fires are lit and food and gifts are offered to placate potentially angry ghosts who might be looking for revenge.
– Mexico celebrates the Days of the Dead (Días de los Muertos) on the Christian holidays All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2) instead of Halloween. The townspeople dress up like ghouls and parade down the street.
– Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween. Other girls believed they would see their boyfriend’s faces if they looked into mirrors while walking downstairs at midnight on Halloween.
– Because Protestant England did not believe in Catholic saints, the rituals traditionally associated with Hallowmas (or Halloween) became associated with Guy Fawkes Night. England declared November 5th Guy Fawkes Night to commemorate the capture and execution of Guy Fawkes, who co-conspired to blow up the Parliament in 1605 in order to restore a Catholic king.
Fear and Death
– Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.
– In 1970, a five-year-old boy Kevin Toston allegedly ate Halloween candy laced with heroin. Investigators later discovered the heroin belonged to the boy’s uncle and was not intended for a Halloween candy.
– In 1974, eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan died of cyanide poisoning after eating Halloween candy. Investigators later learned that his father had taken out a $20,000 life insurance policy on each of his children and that he had poisoned his own son and also attempted to poison his daughter.
– Children are more than twice as likely to be killed in a pedestrian/car accident on Halloween than on any other night.
– Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was one of the most famous and mysterious magicians who ever lived. Strangely enough, he died in 1926 on Halloween night as a result of appendicitis brought on by three stomach punches.
– In about 1 in 4 autopsies, a major disease is discovered that was previously undetected.
Superstitions and Animals
– The owl is a popular Halloween image. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl’s call meant someone was about to die.
– According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and then walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.
– Signs of a werewolf are a unibrow, hairy palms, specific tattoos, and a long middle finger.
– Vampires are mythical beings who defy death by sucking the blood of humans.
– In 1962, The Count Dracula Society was founded by Dr. Donald A. Reed.
– To this day, there are vampire clubs and societies with people claiming to be real vampires.
– There really are so-called vampire bats, but they’re not from Transylvania. They live in Central and South America and feed on the blood of cattle, horses and birds.
– Worldwide, bats are vital natural enemies of night-flying insects.
– The common little brown bat of North America has the longest life span for a mammal it’s size, with a life span averaging 32 years.
– Many people still believe that gargoyles were created by medieval architects and stone carvers to ward off evil spirits.
– Black cats were once believed to be witch’s familiars who protected their powers.
– If you see a spider on Halloween, it is said to be the spirit of a loved on watching over you.