BY Lauren Smith McDonough and Caroline Picard for Goodhousekeeping.com
1. The holiday goes back more than 2,000 years.
Halloween all started as a pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain (which means “summer’s end”) held around the first of November. It celebrated the final day of the harvest and the crossing of spirits over into the other world. People in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France would ward off ghosts by lighting sacrificial bonfires, and, you guessed it, wearing costumes, according to History.com.
2. Trick-or-treating has existed since medieval times.
Back then, it was known as “guising” in Scotland and Ireland. Young people dressed up in costumes and asked for food or money in exchange for songs, poems, or other “tricks.” Today, the tradition has morphed into children to getting dressed up and asking for candy.
3. Some Halloween rituals used to involve finding a husband.
During the 18th century, ladies would follow Halloween traditions that would “help” them find a romantic match. According to History.com, women would: Throw apple peels over their shoulder hoping to see their future husband’s initials, competitively bob for apples at parties because the winner would be the first to get married, and stand in a dark room with a candle in front of a mirror to look for their future husband’s face. Thankfully, those traditions have died out.
4. Immigrants helped popularize the holiday in the U.S.
When the Irish fled their country in the 1840s due to the potato famine, they brought their Halloween traditions with them. By the 1920s, the holiday the mischief reached an all-time high. Some believe community-based trick-or-treating became popular in the 1930s as a way to control the excessive pranksters.
5. Sugar rationing during World War II halted trick-or-treating.
After the rationing ended, the tradition grew into what we’re familiar with today. Candy companies started launching advertising campaigns to capitalize on the ritual.
6. Now Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the country.
It comes after only Christmas. Consumers spent approximately $9 billion (!) on Halloween last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). That’s A LOT of candy and costumes.
7. Americans spend about $86.27 on Halloween every year.
That includes Halloween decorations, candy, costumes, and cards by the NRF definition. (If you’re curious how that compares to Christmas, Americans spent an average of $1,048 on winter holidays in 2019.)
8. This year will be the first Halloween in 19 years to have a full moon.
Full moons on Halloween are pretty rare. The last time there was a full moon on October 31, it was 2001 — and before that it was 1955. The next one won’t occur until 2039. In fact, the 21st century will only see six full moons on October 31: 2001, 2020, 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096.
9. The Irish also brought us jack-o’-lanterns.
As the story goes, an Irish man named Stingy Jack tricked the devil and therefore was not allowed into heaven or hell — so he spent his days roaming the Earth, carrying a lantern, and went by “Jack of the Lantern.”
10. They used to be carved out of turnips, potatoes, and beets.
Jack-‘o-lanterns originated in Ireland, after all. Once Halloween became popular in America, people used pumpkins instead.
11. There’s also traditional Halloween bread in Ireland.
It’s called barmbrack or just “brack.” The sweet loaf typically contains dark and golden raisins plus a small toy or ring. Similar to king cake at Mardi Gras, tradition dictates the person who finds the item will receive good fortune.
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