1How did the festival of monsters and candy begin?
The origin of Halloween is shrouded in mystery which is pretty cool considering its entire theme. But many scholars believe that it may have been based on an ancient Celtic pagan festival called Samhain, which means “summers end.” Way back in the day, it was thought to be an event in which supernatural creatures would enter our world, and we could commune with the dead. It was also a time to gather food and other materials to prepare for the coming winter. Sadly, there is very little information regarding the link between Halloween and Samhain, but it seems to be the closest one known so far.
2How and when did the tradition of trick or treating start?
In the Middle Ages, children used to dress up in costumes and beg for money or food during Hallowmas. Hallowmas was the Catholic Church’s answer to wiping out Samhain. By combining various customs and traditions from the ancient Celtic pagan festival, they created a new holiday. During this time, children would offer prayers and songs in exchange for food or money. This tradition was called “souling, ” and over the years, it evolved into what is called “guising.” In the United Kingdom, little boys and girls dressed up in costume and sang songs or gave performances, and the practice was brought to America in the late 19th century. Once here, it changed to the tradition we know and love today.
3The history of Halloween in America
During the early days, Halloween festivities and customs seemed odd to Americans, and as time passed, it came to be known as a rough holiday where people would play pranks on each other and act irresponsibly. By 1920, companies and financial institutions started promoting Halloween and so its commercialization began.
4Jack-O-Lanterns were originally carved from turnips and not pumpkins
Today, a Jack-O-Lantern is carved from a pumpkin, but it started out as a turnip-based custom. The name of this iconic decoration comes from an old Irish legend about a man named Stingy Jack. According to folklore, he asked the Devil to have a drink with him. As Jack was a miser, he didn’t want to pay for his drink and decided to convince the Devil to pay for both of them He tricked the Devil into transforming into a coin but as soon it was done, he pocketed it instead. He kept the coin next to a silver cross in his pocket which prevented the Devil from returning to his original form. Later Jack freed him, but that freedom came with a condition—when Jack died, he demanded that the king of hell wouldn’t claim his soul.
When Jack finally passed away, his soul was trapped between Heaven and Hell as the former didn’t want to let in a man as unscrupulous as Jack and the latter couldn’t because of his promise. But the Devil wanted to pay Jack back for all the tricks he played. He asked Jack to go into the night with only a single burning coal to light his way. Jack put the hot coal into a turnip and used it as a lantern.
And so the Jack-O-Lantern was born. The Irish started making their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving on turnips. When Halloween came to America, the tradition shifted to pumpkins as they were easy to procure.
5The Christian/Irish connection in Halloween
Some Evangelical Christians believe Halloween to be a Satanic festival, as it still carries forward some of its pagan customs, but the Celts, who founded this tradition, never worshipped the devil. In fact, they didn’t even have the concept of Christianity’s version of it. When the Catholic Church rose to power and started burning women suspected of being witches, Samhain was already a distant memory.
6Why does Halloween Fall on Oct 31st every year?
Though Samhain used to be held on the same day, there is also an astrological reason for this. The ancient people often looked to the skies for knowledge. Halloween falls exactly in the middle of an equinox and the winter solstice every year. It also comes at a time of the year when days are shorter which elevates its spooky reputation. Halloween is also one of the four cross-quarter days that comes in a year—the other three are Groundhog Day, May Day and Lammas.
7Evolution of wearing costumes for Halloween
During Samhain, people used to wear costumes to honor the dead spirits. Many years later, the tradition transformed into guising, in which young children wore costumes when they went out to collect fruits and money.
Once the festival reached America, the commercialization of Halloween led to its modern iteration. In the 1920’s, several companies started to promote a broader range of costumes for Halloween. They didn’t want to limit Halloween to just spooky costumes. Companies began licensing cartoon characters and other favorite pop culture icons to create a wide variety of outfits.
8Today's Halloween stats
It’s amazing to see how a centuries-old festival has transformed itself into a global phenomenon. In 2016, nearly $8.4 billion was spent by Americans on Halloween. This year, the number is said to go up to a whopping $9.1 billion. Costumes are believed to bring in at least $3.4 billion in revenue, which is a substantial number compared to last year’s $3.1 billion.