CHARLOTTE, NC: Okay boys and ghouls it’s time for Halloween trivia. We begin in Anoka, Minnesota in 1921 which was the home of the first citywide celebration of Halloween in the United States. Even Minnesota was a late-comer to the tradition, however, which dates back more than 2,000 years when it was a pre-Christian festival held around the first of November known as Samhain or “Summer’s End.”
Samhain or Summer’s End
Samhain is the celebration of the final day of the harvest. Ancients did believe that on this day the spirits of the dead would cross over into the other world. Sacrificial bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits and, of course, costumes were worn as added protection in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France. Dressing children in hideous masks was thought to protect them from demons who coveted “beautiful” humans.
In medieval times, the poor people and children of Scotland and Ireland used the opportunity to beg for food and money in exchange for entertainment and prayer. The tradition of wearing costumes back then, however, was known as “guising.”
Halloween: Second best?
Today, Halloween has become the second-most popular commercial holiday in the country, outranked only by Christmas. The original intent, the poor begging for food, is now has evolved into the practice of children dressing up and asking for candy. And that is big business indeed.
In fact, last year consumers spent over 9-billion dollars on costumes and candy. More than 93% of children under the age of 12 go trick-or-treating, but, in recent years, adults have increasingly gotten into the act where half of them dress up and 67% participate in parties, decorating the house and/or trick-or-treating with their kids.
Statistics show that a whopping 86% of Americans decorate their house while 10% dress their pets in costumes. By the way, the preferred costume for adults is a witch and the most popular choice for dogs is a pumpkin.
To their offspring’s dismay, 93% of guiltless parents admit to stealing goodies from the Halloween bags brought home by their children.
Here’s a Halloween tip for anyone over the age of 16 in Bathurst, Canada, don’t be seen trick-or-treating or, for that matter, even wearing a mask. It’ll cost you $200 if you are caught. There’s also a city curfew stating that even those who are under 16 are not allowed outdoors after 8 p.m. on Halloween.
Orange and black are the traditional colors of the season with orange relating to the fall harvest and black being associated with darkness and death.
According to one resource, more than 35-million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year, amounting to 9 billion pieces. That’s enough to circle the moon four times if laid end to end, without even touching the cream cheese.
So much for numbers. History.com tells us that women in the 18th and 19th centuries would throw apple peels over their shoulders hoping to see their future husband’s initials. Bobbing for apples was fiercely competitive in that era because the winner was believed to be the first to get married.
Another feminine tradition included standing in a dark room with a candle in front of a mirror looking for her future husband’s face.
Though sugar rationing ceased the production of candy during World War II, the aftermath of the war proved a boon for confectioners who began launching massive advertising campaigns to promote the Halloween tradition.
In case you’re wondering, Reeses accounts for more than $550-million in sales each year, while previously mentioned candy corn typically ranks among the least popular treats on candy aficionado’s lists.
Halloween and Stingy Jack
One of the more intriguing aspects of Halloween trivia is the story of an Irishman named Stingy Jack. According to legend, Jack tricked the Devil and was banned from both heaven and hell. Thus he spent his days roaming the earth carrying a lantern, leading to his name as “Jack of the Lantern” or jack-o-lantern.
In those days, turnips, potatoes, and beets were the vegetables of choice for carving, but when Halloween reached American shores, the pumpkin took the honors.
Scraping the bottom of the trivia barrel, Keene, New Hampshire holds the Guinness World Record for the most jack-o-lanterns on display setting the mark in 2013 with 30,581.
By any other name, it is still Halloween
Arguably, no state gets into Halloween more than New Jersey where the holiday is also known as “Mischief Night”, “Cabbage Night” or the ever-popular “Goosey Night.”
From most accounts, New Jersey is the headliner though the “tricks” remain primarily in the East Coast and Midwest. California and its allies, which are usually the most likely trendsetters in the U.S., typically refrain from such shenanigans.
Cabbage Night’s roots come from Scotland and actually occurs on Halloween Eve rather than October 31. For whatever reason, young girls would pull cabbages out of their neighbor’s patches to examine them scrupulously in the hope of learning the qualities of their future mates.
Following that, once the cabbage had served its purpose, the logical thing to do was to throw it against the door and run like hell.
According to local residents, cabbage has never actually been discovered, yielding instead to eggs, shaving cream and toilet paper as the favorite weapons of choice.
Goosey Night pranks are most prevalent in Bergen and Passaic Counties where the tradition is to soap up car and store windows. The practice is believed to have begun in the 1940’s with no explanation as to how it relates to the name.
Finally, and most appropriately on All Hallow’s Eve, we would be remiss without noting the irony that world-famous illusionist, Harry Houdini, died on Halloween night in 1926.
You see, even the great magician could not escape the mysterious perils of Halloween.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
About the Author:
Taylor is a founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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