October 31st: a normal day for any other country, but in the United States, it means Halloween, when houses are decorated with carved-up pumpkins, spider webs cling to bushes, “Monster Mash” plays on the radio, children dress up in costumes and giddily await nightfall, when, finally, they can attack the neighborhood at dusk, trick-or-treating at every door to get enough candy (plus more) to fill their cauldron buckets, plastic pumpkins, or giant pillowcases with Snickers, Sour Patch Kids, Milky Ways, Almond Joys, M&Ms, Reese’s Cups, Lollipops, and any other mass-produced sweet treat conceivable.
From dusk until late night, houses are lit up and people are friendly, opening their doors to give out the candy and hear the choruses of “Trick-or-Treat!” or “Happy Halloween!” followed by the parents’ loud whispers in the background of “Don’t forget to say thank you!” and “Only one piece!” Fairies flit, ghosts fly, and witches cackle until each and every house has been enthusiastically approached.
Then comes the return back home in disheveled costumes for a hot cup of cider and a serious session of candy trading and competition, seeing who got the most number of bars, or receiving a ring pop in return for two pieces of Hubba Bubba bubble gum. Finally, the night is over, and hyper children reluctantly get into bed with their stomachs more full of chocolate than dinner, and spend the night dreaming of their loots and strategizing how to make it last as long as possible. THAT is Halloween.
Halloween is an ancient holiday, dating back to over 2,000 years ago, in the form of a Celtic tradition called Samhain, in which individuals would dress up in costumes to ward off evil spirits and ghosts. Back then, November 1st was the New Year, as well as the day marking the transition from prosperous summer harvest to a “dark” time, associated with the transition from life to death. Thus, massive bonfires were lit and costumes were worn to ward off ghosts who would take advantage of this vulnerable day when the lines between living and nonliving blurred.
Later, ancient Romans added a second day to honor the goddess Pomona, who ruled the fruit of the earth. If you’ve ever wondered why we now “bob for apples,” it’s likely because it originated from this second day, as Pomona means “apple.”
Eventually, November 2nd become “Alhallowmess,” or “All Saint’s Day,” when the Pope declared all the dead should be honored. Over time, this became “All Hallows Eve,” and, eventually, our modern “Halloween.”
Okay, so we run door-to-door, asking for candy to collect and devour later (along with the development of a few new cavities). Umm why? Well, we trick-or-treat to simulate the beggars who would trade “Soul Cakes” in return for another’s promise to help pay to bury a deceased relative. If someone was “going a-souling,” they were likely traveling door to door, trading cakes to raise enough support for a proper burial.
Next time you put on a costume, think of why you’re doing so: traditionally, costumes and masks were worn by individuals on these days to disguise themselves from the ghosts and evil spirits that attempted to cross the boundaries of the underworld.
Enough of your daily history lesson by Professor Rowena. For a little fun Halloween weekend, check out these 10 random, spooky, funny, and Halloween-y facts about our favorite October Holiday:
Thought your pumpkin was a Halloween classic? Think again! The root vegetable turnip preceded its now popular and preferred gap-toothed squash friend.
- “Samhainophobia” is the name of someone with the fear of Halloween
Recognize the root of the word?? History is everywhere…
- After Christmas, Halloween is the second highest grossing holiday of the year
There’s a reason behind those outrageously expensive store-bought Halloween costumes and bulk candy in the grocery store.
- Salem, MA and Anoka, MN have both self-proclaimed themselves as the Halloween capitals of the world.
It makes sense, considering that they are the location of historic witch trials and the first 1920 host of the Halloween Parades, respectively.
- So why orange and black? Orange represents the harvest, while black represents death, which are the two core elements of the ancient roots of the Halloween celebration and tradition.
- Americans will buy 600 million lbs of Halloween candy this year, which is equivalent to 16 billion fun-size snickers bars, or 158 trillion candy corns. That’s about 2 billion dollars!
- The most lit pumpkins at once was 30,581 in the City of Keene, New Hampshire, on October 19th, 2013.
- Candy corn used to be known as “chicken feed.”
In fact, this now common Halloween candy was once just an ordinary treat that hit markets after WWII and was available seasonally in the spring. It wasn’t until later that it began to be commercialized for the Holiday because of its harvest-like colors.
- The top candy of choice? SNICKERS!
- It’s illegal to dress up as a priest for Halloween in Alabama, and there’s a $1,000 fine for using silly string on Halloween night in Los Angeles, CA.
Have fun trick-or-treating, “souling,” and bobbing for apples! Here’s to our favorite black and orange Holiday!
P.S. Click here to find out what Halloween costume YOU should be next year!