In northern Europe, this was a dreaded time of year. The crops were all harvested, and the long, cold nights of winter loomed ahead. Light and warmth wouldn't return to the world for months. Many thought it was a time when souls roamed the earth, looking for new bodies to inhabit. In fact, that's how the modern version of Halloween got its start.
About 2500 years ago, the Celts of ancient Ireland put out their fires at this time of year, to make their homes less appealing to wandering souls. Priests lit great bonfires to scare away the spirits. And people dressed up as goblins or witches, made loud noises, and played pranks to convince the spirits that they were already possessed. They had to be careful not to overdo it, though. If they acted too strange, people thought they really WERE possessed, and threw them on the bonfires.
Over the centuries, Halloween lost much of its deeper significance, but the hijinks continued. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to the United States in the mid-1800s. The customs of Halloween caught on, and remain with us today.
When I was growing up in New Zealand we didn't celebrate Halloween. It was something that we might hear about or see in a U.S. movie or a news story about fires in Detroit on the night of Halloween. The custom of "trick or treating" was more mystery than reality. For me, growing up in a Catholic family, the nearest thing to this focus on the spirit world and the dead around this time of year was the celebration of All Souls day on November 2nd, the day on which the Catholic Church celebrates Requiem Mass on behalf of the souls of the departed still suffering in Purgatory. It was a day when we were yet again unwillingly dragged off to Mass by our father - wasn't going on Sundays enough, us young brats would protest.
Halloween Stats, Facts, and Fun
- Witch, coming from the Saxon word “wicca,” means “wise one.”
- In 2005, the state of Illinois was the U.S.’ No. 1 pumpkin producer with 497 million pounds—followed by California, Ohio and Pennsylvania
- The scariest places in the U.S. to spend Halloween: Transylvania County, NC; Tombstone, AZ; Pumpkin Center, NC; Pumpkin Bend, AR; Cape Fear, NC; Skull Creek, NE.
- Halloween candy sales average about $2 billion annually in the United States
- In 2005, statistically every American consumed 26 pounds of candy—much of it believed to be eaten around Halloween
- Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers being #1
- If you see a spider on Halloween, it is said to be the spirit of a loved one watching over you
Create an e-Jack-o'-Lantern Online
The Life and Death of a Pumpkin
The Skeletons Project
How Scary Are You Quiz
Do Black Cats Cause Bad Luck?
Halloween Costume Rental Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside County
Costume Designer Carin Jacobs is based in Long Beach, California, and has a over 5000 costumes available for rent. Carin works as a costume designer for stage and screen as well as an educator in the history of fashion and costume design at several Southern California universities and colleges. Impress your friends this year with a Halloween costume rental from Carin Jacobs.
Shop for costumes at our online costume store.