The entire purpose of this column is to provide readers with unusual and interesting facts and anecdotes they can share with others (preferably at a party, so they can sound smart). Since Halloween is this week, and unusual and interesting are two words that go perfectly with the holiday’s history, we’ve decided to share some random facts about Halloween and how it became the holiday it is today. As always, you are encouraged to use this information to sound smart at a party.
• The average consumer spends $24.17 on Halloween costumes, $20.39 on candy, $18.25 on decorations and $3.73 on greeting cards.
• Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with fall harvest and black is associated with death and darkness.
• Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and other chocolate bars are the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters. Halloween candy sales in the United States average about $2 billion annually.
• Halloween is the second-most commercially successful holiday, after Christmas.
• In 2009, the most popular Halloween costume was Michael Jackson.
• There actually are “vampire bats.” They live in Central and South America, and they feed off the blood of cattle, horses and birds.
• Halloween’s roots lay in the feast of Samhain, which was celebrated by the Druids, a Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. The feast was held on Oct. 31 to signify the end of summer and the beginning of the Celtic new year.
• The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets on this night, so they left out gifts and treats for them. The Celts also began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human by the ghosts and spirits.
• Jack-O-Lanterns also originated in Ireland. The first ones were hollowed-out turnips.
• Catholics honor saints and martyrs on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. It is believed this was done to replace the pagan holiday with a related Christian one. It is also called All-Hallows from a Middle English word, making the night before it All-Hallows’ Eve. This eventually became Halloween. In A.D. 1000 the church made Nov. 2 All Souls’ Day, which was a day to honor the dead.
• During early All Souls’ Day parades in England, the poor would beg for food and people would give them pastries called “soul cakes” if they promised to pray for their dead relatives. This, combined with the Celtic tradition of leaving out gifts and treats, is how trick-or-treating is thought to have evolved.
• Halloween parades and parties started to gain popularity in America in the 1920s and 1930s. Sometime between 1920 and 1950, trick-or-treating was revived and became the tradition we all follow today.
• Halloween wasn’t always just about the dead—it also had a romantic twist. In 18th century Ireland, a matchmaking cook would bury a ring in the mashed potatoes on Halloween night, and it would bring true love to the person who found it. When women were at parties, the first successful apple-bobber was said to be the first one who would get married.
• Dracula is considered one of the most filmed movie characters of all time.
• On Oct. 31, 1926, magician Harry Houdini died at age 52. He died after he had let a college student punch him repeatedly in the stomach to prove he could withstand the hardest punches days earlier. His appendix ruptured as a result.
• In 10 years, expect a special Halloween: In 2020 there will be a full moon on the night of Oct. 31.
• A CNN poll showed 48 percent of people believe in ghosts. Seventy-eight percent believe in life after death.