We all know the Halloween drill: dress up like something (or someone) we’re not, and go around the neighborhood ringing doorbells asking for treats. It’s the one night a year kids are allowed to demand candy from strangers.
How did this get started? Here are 10 fun facts about the history of Halloween:
- The costumes probably date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when folks believed the border between our world and the world of the dead became thin. They’d disguise themselves as spirits in the hopes that the restless dead walking the earth would pass them by.
- The name Halloween dates from the 16th century. Far from a Hallmark holiday, people have been celebrating this one in the British aisles since before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.
- Trick-or-treating is old, too. There are references to it in Shakespeare. In The Bard’s day, the practice was called “souling”.
- The first incidence of the word “trick-or-treating” appearing in print comes from Chicago in 1927. Kids have been walking door to door in costumes on Halloween night for centuries, but it’s only in the past few generations that they’ve shouted “Trick or Treat!” when doing it.
- Halloween costumes began, as mentioned, to ward off evil spirits. It’s only in recent days that the costume repertoire has expanded to include superheros and fairy princesses. Maybe our kids desperately need to ward them off, too?
- Why the Jack O’Lanterns? Like the costumes, these began as a way to ward off evil spirits from houses. Now they’re just decorative fun!
- Haunted houses are creepy fun, but also big business. The haunted house industry rakes in $300 million to $500 million dollars each year. Americans just love their chills and thrills.
- No child has ever been killed by poisoned Halloween candy. You should by all means check the safety of your kids’ trick-or-treat haul by taste testing each piece. But know that you’re doing it to slake your own sweet tooth. The “poison candy” thing is just a popular myth.
- Halloween began in the British aisles. It’s huge there, and here in the United States and Canada. Most of the rest of the world just lets this date pass by. Hear that, candy retailers? You have a huge untapped market awaiting you in Asia.
- Remember that ancient Celtic holiday, Samhain, that started it all? Some modern families celebrate Samhain as a time to honor and remember their own ancestors. Modern Pagans often treat it as one of the holiest days of their year.
What’s your favorite fun fact about Halloween?
More by Sierra Black: