Ghouls and goblins, angels and
super-heroes, and always pop-culture icons!
This is the scene of every neighborhood
in America on the last day of each October.
It’s no different right here in our neck of the woods. The community goes all out for Halloween. As a nation, we spend over $5 billion a year celebrating this spooky day.
So, where did it all start? When did it become perfectly okay to send our kids to accept candy from strangers and dress up like crazy people?
Truth be told, Halloween is a blend of several cultures and holidays across various geographies. The Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) marked the end of summer and beginning of winter. Basically, it was the time when all of the crops died. It was believed that the spirits of the dead would come back to damage the crops and play tricks on those left living. Large bonfires were held and animal skins worn to protect people from these spirits.
As Christianity spread to the Celtic territories, it brought with it the celebration of All Saints Day – a day to honor saints and martyrs. In honor, citizens dressed up as angels and saints. Eventually, the two days blended and the mash of Samhain and All Hallows Day became known as Halloween. There’s some Roman holidays mixed in there somewhere as well, but I’ll let you do your own Google work.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that Halloween came to America, with the immigration of the Irish and English. It’s from these immigrants that we derived so many of the traditions we practice today. The events have certainly evolved over the years but they are rooted deep in the Irish and English cultures. It really didn’t catch on as a “thing” until around 1930. This is when trick-or-treating and costume craziness really started to sweep the country. While many dismiss the holiday, closely relating it to satanic worship and misfits in general, the truth is that the majority of commercial sales around the holiday come from generally positive and “friendlier” merchandised items.
Don’t get me wrong… there is no decline in sales when it comes skeletons, witches brew, and headstones. But when you really think about it, pop culture icons drive costume sales. Hulk Hogan, Elvira, and Michael Jackson are annual favorites. Last year brought the boys from Duck Dynasty and way too many Miley Cyrus teddy-bear outfits! The Minions from Despicable Me, Indiana Jones, Barney, the cast of Glee, or any of the Marvel Super Heroes, were certainly big hits in the costume department. Kids love to be animals. Some even like dressing as food.
For others, it’s all about the comedy. Who can be the most cliché, or wear the biggest innuendo? Couples costumes are always fun and out of all of these, the homemade costume is probably twice as popular as all of the others combined.
I thought I’d share some interesting bits of fact that I got from an old Huffington Post article. Here are five things you might not have know about this peculiar holiday:
1. Halloween Is The Second-Highest Grossing Commercial Holiday After Christmas
What used to be just a singular holiday with minimal things to purchase has turned into an entire “Halloween Season.” Between decorative lights and lawn ornaments, elaborate costumes and loads of candy, the average American spends a pretty penny on this fall holiday. And the kids have come to expect it! Don’t get caught being that “cheap” house that’s giving out one piece of non-name-brand candy at a time. You just might wake up to eggs on the house and toilet paper in the yard.
2. Harry Houdini Died On October 31, 1926
The famous magician was killed (accidentally) by a McGill University student named J. Gordon Whitehead who was hitting him in the stomach repeatedly as part of a stunt. A week later he died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix. Despite acute appendicitis, Houdini refused to seek medical treatment.
3. There’s A Phobia For That
Samhainophobia is an intense and persistent fear of Halloween that can cause panic attacks in sufferers. Other relevant phobias for this time of year: wiccaphobia (fear of witches), phasmophobia (fear of ghosts), and coimetrophobia (fear of cemeteries). It all gives me the heeby-jeebies!
4. The First Jack-O-Lanterns
Weren’t Made Out Of Pumpkins. They were originally hollowed-out turnips. The modern practice mutated from the Irish tradition of carving faces of the dead onto the gourds and putting candles inside to make them glow. These days your Jack-O-Lantern is mostly made out of a pumpkin, which most likely came from Illinois—a state that grew 278,000 tons of pumpkins last year!
5. One Quarter Of All The Candy Sold Annually Is For Halloween Night
Yes, no matter how much we eat for Christmas and Thanksgiving, Halloween has cornered the market on candy. As a country we consume 20 million pounds of candy corn a year. Handing out Halloween treats is the perfect excuse to eat some too, as four-in-ten (41%) adults admit that they sneak sweets from their own candy bowl. And if you’re a kid, hang on to your basket, because home is where the candy thief is as 90% of parents admit to sneaking goodies from their kids’ Halloween trick-or-treat bags. But whether your stealing some, handing out some or having yours stolen, chances are you’ll get your hands (or miss getting your hands) on a Snickers bar. It has been the number 1 Halloween candy for years.
So, this month as you start making plans and thinking of the best costume ever, here’s just a few things to ponder on. Whether you’re a last minute, figure it out on the afternoon of the 31st kind of person, or a go-all-out, cemetery in the front yard, 4 hours of makeup, with complete audio track kind of expert, know that you are not alone. There’s someone out there somewhere in the world who shares the same point of view and spent the same amount of money – or didn’t for that matter. Halloween is a melting pot holiday of many customs, cultures, and nations. It has certainly evolved over the years and, like Americans do, we’ve put our own little spin on it.
Remember to be safe, carry something that lights up, and respect those around you trying to have a good time, too. While there’s plenty of scary stories and spooky costumes, we’re all just really trying to have a good time. Parents, inspect those candy bags. Take a few pieces for yourself – you’ve earned it. And certainly invite as many friends over as you can. Fun is best served in a group. Plus, you’re going to need an audience when you start dropping all of this new Halloween trivia, you sly, little devil….