Halloween Facts You Never Knew You Never Knew.

I don’t care what the idiots around me believe or think, I’m going to talk about Halloween right up until I run out of things to say about it or the day after. Whichever comes first.

So I have found some facts about my favorite holiday in all the year (my birthday actually comes in second) from around the good old Internet and had the sudden desire to share these useless but perhaps entertaining facts with you. Do let me know in the comments if I manage to actually spell a word backwards–it’s been happening quite a lot lately I’m afraid….

  • Americans will spend $6.9 BILLION on Halloween this year.  That roughly breaks down to $27.85 on costumes, $22.37 on candy, $20.99 on decorations and $3.82 on cards. Most of us spend MUCH more in any of those categories, except maybe cards.
  • More candy is sold on October 28th than any other day of the year.
  • Each year, about 75% of households plan to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.
  • 81% of parents confess that they take candy from their child’s Halloween haul. 9% lie about it.
  • Chocolate is Americans’ favorite Halloween candy, with candy corn taking second place.
  • Invented by George Renninger, a candy maker at the Wunderle Candy Company of Philadelphia in the 1880s, Candy Corn was originally called “butter cream candies” and “chicken feed” since back then, corn was commonly used as food for livestock (they even had a rooster on the candy boxes). It had no association with Halloween or fall, and was sold seasonally from March to November. After World War II, advertisers began marketing it as a special Halloween treat due to its colors and ties to the fall harvest.
  • 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.
  • The first Jack O’Lanterns were made from turnips, not pumpkins.
  • While pumpkins are typically orange, they can also be white or yellow.
  • The world’s largest pumpkin, grown by Tim Mathison, weighed in at 2,032 lb.
  • The word “witch” comes from the Old Saxon word “wica”, meaning “wise one.” The earliest witches were respected dealers in charms and medicinal herbs and tellers of fortunes.
  • Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween.
  • Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought Halloween to the United States in the 1800s
  • The celebration of Halloween started in America as an autumn harvest festival.
  • “Halloween” is short for “Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallows’ Evening,” which was the evening before all Hallows’ Day or Hallowmas on November 1.
  • 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. This is also why children dress up as “spirits” or other demons.
  • In Hollywood, CA, there’s a $1,000 fine for use, possession, sale or distribution of silly string.
  • In Rehoboth, DE, Sundays are off limits for trick-or-treaters.
  • In Dublin, Georgia, it’s against the law to wear hoods or sunglasses. Now is this just on Halloween or every day though?
  • In Virginia, kids over 12 are banned from participating in sweet-treat soliciting or what the rest of us call trick-or-treating.
  • In Alabama, it’s illegal to dress-up as a priest. What about a nun though?
  • Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.
  • 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.
  • Irish legend has it that one day the devil himself came to take the soul of a thieving man named Jack. But Jack managed to trick the devil, making him promise to never take his soul. After eventually living a long life, Jack tried to enter the Pearly Gates, but could not, for he had lived a life of evil. He then attempted to enter Hell, but the devil kept his word, being no big fan of Jack anyway. When Jack complained of having no way to see, the devil laughed at him and threw him a glowing ember, which he fashioned into a lantern using a turnip in his pocket. He became Jack Of The Lantern, doomed to aimlessly walk the Earth with nowhere to go. While the legends may sound incredible, they were based on a real phenomenon. Swamp gasses that interact with decaying matter will sometimes give off a strange light that seems to vanish when you get closer. Before we had a scientific explanation, people believed these were trapped souls who could enter neither heaven nor hell and would lead you astray. Some legends say the Irish would use turnips or beets to create jack-o’-lanterns—for multiple purposes. The lanterns were sometimes used as a means of honoring those souls trapped in purgatory, but their mocking faces were also used to scare away evil spirits. 
  • 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.
  • Scarecrows, a popular Halloween fixture, symbolize the ancient agricultural roots of the holiday.
  • Halloween has variously been called All Hallows’ Eve, Witches Night, Lamswool, Snap-Apple Night, Samhaim, Nutcrack Night 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • According to superstition, there is a good chance on Halloween that you are being shadowed by Death himself, and if you look upon him it will be your end. But the parting of the veil between worlds on Halloween is cause for more than the fear of spirits and fell apparitions coming to claim you, it is also considered a very important night for divination. Many of the superstitions involving divination also have to do with love, and some are extremely specific. One tradition suggests holding a candle in one hand, a mirror in the other, and attempting to walk backward down the stairs. This will supposedly allow you to see your future spouse, although it seems more likely that you’ll end up seeing a doctor. (But is the doctor single?)
  • 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. Some people think of the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) as a Mexican version of Halloween. With its focus on death and spooky costumes, it could easily seem that way to an outsider, but the two holidays actually boast very different perspectives. Halloween is very much based on the fear of death and spirits, but on the Day of the Dead, death is embraced and even celebrated. On this day, the spirits of the dead return to the Earth, guided by the strong aroma of marigolds and incense to shrines set up for them by their families, who celebrate their return. As the day comes to an end, the families may head to the cemetery to spend the rest of the night with their loved ones before they go back to the other world. While many of our Halloween traditions find skeletons to be scary, the Day of the Dead uses them both to celebrate and laugh at death.
  • 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.
  • Halloween is thought to have originated around 4000 B.C., which means Halloween has been around for over 6,000 years.
  • In 1970, a five-year-old boy Kevin Toston allegedly ate Halloween candy laced with heroin. Investigators later discovered the child had gotten into his uncle’s heroin stash and the candy had never been tainted in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Customers at Creepyworld (a haunted house) in St. Louis were walking through a bathroom scene drenched in fake blood when they saw a very realistic-looking corpse hanging from a noose—a little too realistic. As it turns out, something had gone horribly wrong. A teenage volunteer had somehow gotten up on the bathtub and become caught in the noose, ending up in a coma for three days. The creepiest part of the story is that, despite surviving the accident, she has no memory of how it happened or the days leading up to it. The only clues the police have are footprints on the bathtub and scuff marks on the walls.
  • 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.
  • Both Salem, Massachusetts, and Anoka, Minnesota, are the self-proclaimed Halloween capitals of the world. Salem is chock-full of shops that cater to witches, with a witch museum and scores of other spooky sites. However, like any city, the thing that truly gives it the spark of life and wonder are the people. Salem on Halloween is an extraordinary experience, with people thronging the streets in every sort of costume imaginable. But Salem can be like walking through a dream on any ordinary day as well. Many Wiccans have taken up residence in the city and some walk around wearing traditional garb on a daily basis. The city lives and breathes the culture of witchcraft and, as Halloween approaches, the amount of people in costume steadily increases. Some people have even likened Salem to a 365-day Halloween party. It’s a place where dreams (or nightmares) come alive.
  • Boston, Massachusetts, holds the record for the most Jack O’Lanterns lit at once (30,128).
  • 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.
  • In many countries, such as France and Australia, Halloween is seen as an unwanted and overly commercial American influence.
  • Children are more than twice as likely to be killed in a pedestrian/car accident on Halloween than on any other night.
  • Many Christians are disturbed by Halloween and consider it wrong to take part in it, seeing it as a celebration of evil. This has become such a commonplace concern that pastors find themselves asked about it yearly. In a way, the fear is perfectly understandable. According to many Christians, the devil is the enemy. So the idea of dressing up as him or any of his minions doesn’t seem like something a good person should take part in. Like many fears, this simply stems from ignorance of the history of Halloween. Back in the days when Christians first co-opted Halloween as All Hallows’ Eve, they believed very literally in the devil. However, to them, one of the best ways to fight the devil was to attack his greatest weakness, the pride that led him to become a fallen angel in the first place. To this effect, they would depict him with red horns and a ridiculous tail to mock him, hoping it would cause him to flee. Intent can get lost over time, so many people have an unrealistic idea of the devil, not understanding the ridiculous caricature as the mockery that it is.
  • Years ago, a couple days after Halloween, a mail carrier was making his rounds when he saw what looked like a fairly realistic dead body on a porch. Given the time of year, he decided that it was simply been a Halloween decoration and went on his way without reporting it. He was horrified when he later discovered it was actually the body of a man that had collapsed just hours prior; the family was distraught and felt the mailman should have done something. It is not the first time something like this has happened. In a small suburban neighborhood, the neighbors noticed an extremely realistic corpse hanging from a tree. Many people drove right by it, thinking it was just a Halloween decoration. The neighbors were shocked when the police investigated and found it to be the body of a woman who had just committed suicide. More recently, in an apartment complex in Los Angeles, the tenants ignored a very realistic dummy that looked like it had been shot in the eye. What the neighbors believed was a Halloween decoration turned out to be a corpse that was allowed to decompose for almost a week. The police ruled it a suicide.
  • However, the origins of trick-or-treating are shrouded in mystery. Many cultures had similar practices—for instance, in the UK, children would go door to door on Guy Fawkes day and ask for “a penny for the guy.” In Ireland, in the old Samhain days, it was fairly customary for orphans and widows to beg for supplies. After all, Samhain marked the beginning of the cold months and they would need all the help they could get. The actual phrase “trick-or-treat” likely has much more modern origins. Some suggest that the phrase began in America in the early 20th century with the arrival of Irish immigrants who brought their mischief along with them. To combat pranks and other mischief by poor children, people suggested offering treats to them as a small bribe. For this reason, in its early days, Halloween was often known as “beggars’ night.”
  • Though a common trope in horror movies and Halloween decorations with witches flying across the full moon, the next full moon on Halloween won’t occur until 2020. The most recent Halloween full moon was back in 2001, and before that it was in 1955.
  • Trick-or-treating was brought to America by the Irish and became popular during the early 20th century, but died out during WWII when sugar was rationed. After the rationing ended in 1947, children’s magazine “Jack and Jill,” radio program “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and the “Peanuts” comic strip all helped to re-popularize the tradition of dressing up in costumes and asking for candy from door-to-door. By 1952, trick-or-treating was hugely popular again.

And I am sure there is a whole heck of a lot more out there, and I am sorry for any repeats. It’s hard to remember which I have shared and what not.

Until next time, look at a calendar. Any calendar will do be it electronic or old fashioned (meaning it hangs on a wall) and tell me which holidays are coming up from now to the end of the year IN ORDER. I’ll bet you Christmas falls last (not counting New Year’s Eve).

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