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Halloween Facts

Updated on May 7, 2015

Halloween is a night of mystery, superstition and all things spooky but it still remains one of the most popular and widely celebrated holidays of all time.

According to a National Research Federation study an astounding 71% of all Americans plan on celebrating Halloween in the 2012 retail season, that equals some 170 million people. Some impressive numbers for our favorite holiday.

Halloween as a result of this amazing popularity has become big business for candy and costume manufacturers but what is the actual story behind the wildly popular holiday? When did it begin? Where did it begin?

Read on to learn 5 things you might not have known about halloween.

Pumpkins in a field.
Pumpkins in a field.

5. The Name Halloween

The name Halloween can be traced back to the 16th century when it was first used to simplify the proper name "All Hallows Even (evening)".

It was also called All Hallows Eve by the Christians and was celebrated the night before Alholowmesse (All Saints Day) as a time when the lost souls that wandered earth had one last chance to seek revenge on their enemies before moving on into the next life. To help avoid this one could were a disguise and basically hid until All Hallows Eve was over.

It was shortened to Hallowe'en until late in the 20th century when its abbreviation was removed entirely and it became the more recognizable spelling Halloween that we know and love today.

Image - Pumpkins in a field

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4. Trick or Treat

Trick or Treating, some times called 'Guising' is a customary practice around the world involving dressing up in costumes of ghosts, ghouls and goblins asking for treats from nearby neighbors.

The custom can be traced back to a number of traditions from the middle ages such as the Roman Catholic custom of Souling, which involves participants dressing up and saying prayers and singing for the dead on All Saints Day in return for food which was a cake baked specifically for the occasion called a soul cake. When the cake was eaten a soul trapped on earth would be released.

The tradition of guising, another possible influence on trick or treating, comes from a Celtic tradition which involved dressing up to preform house to house in order to earn food or money from the homes owners. Its earliest recording was in Scotland 1895 though references to wearing disguises date back much further than that.

Halloween decorating tips

Trick or Treat
Trick or Treat

3. The Origins of Halloween

Halloweens origins are commonly thought to relate back to two main influences stemming from the ancient European Celtics and their fall harvest festival called Samhain in the 10th century and the Roman Catholic celebration All Saints Day in the year 609.

The ancient Celtics would celebrate the end of the growing season with the festival of Samhain as a time when the lines between the living (summer) and dead (winter) were blurred and the dead would return to their earthly forms to cause destruction and havoc. It was thought that a festival to appease the deceased would appease the spirits ensuring a safe winter season. The festival was traditionally held on November 1st and 2nd.

When Rome eventually conquered the Celtic lands they brought their own customs and festival and in 609 A.D. pope Boniface IV created a holiday to commemorate martyrs of the Catholic religion. This holiday was eventually moved to November 1st and was used as a church sanctioned holiday to replace the Celtic festival of Samhaim.

It is still debated which had more influence on the modern holiday as we know it or if both were involved at all.

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2. Why We Like Dressing Up

In 1600s the Celtic custom of wearing disguises during the festival of Samhain to protect from evil spirits roaming the earthly plane was a possible origin for common Halloween practices. It was practiced by Scottish and Irish descendants as a tradition on October 31st to mark the end of the fall harvest.

Roman Catholics in Britain further enabled this custom by wearing disguises to hid from angry spirits that were wandering the earth on All Hallows Eve, which was implementing to replace the pagan ritual of Samhain. It was thought that evil spirits were out for revenge on the night before All Saints Day and if you were a target you could hide from the ghost by wearing a disguise.

The traditions continued through the 19th century and well into the 20th century being introduce to North America by landed immigrants from European nations.

Candy corn - a Halloween favorite.
Candy corn - a Halloween favorite.

1. Halloween Is Big Business

Retail sales have hit an all time high for the holiday of Halloween with growth projections continuing to climb. It seems this fun and exciting holiday is only growing in popularity with participants willing to spend big bucks to enjoy their Halloween fun.

Some numbers to put the sales into perspective for North American consumers based on NRF BIGResearch Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Surveys for 2011 are:

  • Costume Sales - $2.52 billion
  • Halloween Candy - $2 billion
  • Halloween Greeting Cards - $0.47 billion
  • Halloween Decorations - $1.88 billion

The grand total for 2011 based on the consumer survey equal $6.86 billion which is up over $1 billion more than North American consumers had planned to spend the year before.

Halloween Favorites

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Lets hear your comments on Halloween.

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    • FreakyV profile image
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      FreakyV 5 years ago from Canada

      @VspaBotanicals: Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed it.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      I did enjy this lens. Thank you.