Home >Halloween Fun Facts and Trivia - Interesting Halloween Facts
Halloween Fun Facts and Trivia - Interesting Halloween Facts
Below you'll find some interesting Halloween facts, traditions and other bits of information relating to the history of Halloween. You can always find a way to use these interesting Halloween facts at your party, for instance in a Halloween quiz.
Behind the name "Halloween", or the "Hallow E'en" as they call it in Ireland, means 'All Hallows Eve', or the night before the 'All Hallows', also called 'All Hallowmas', or 'All Saints', or 'All Souls' Day, observed on November 1.
One story says that on Nov. 1 the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.
Naturally, the still living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.
Another one of those interesting Halloween facts has to do with the custom of trick-or-treating. This custom is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called "souling". On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.
Another assumption: On the evening before Samhain (another name for Halloween), people left food on their doorsteps to keep hungry spirits from entering the house. Festivalgoers started dressing in ghost, witch, and goblin costumes so that wandering spirits would leave them alone. To this day, these are Halloween's most popular costumes.
The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America , they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.
Growing big pumpkins is a big-time and serious hobby. Top prize money for the biggest giant pumpkin is as much as $25,000 dollars at fall festivals. The current world record for giant pumpkins is 1446 pounds (that's a lot of pumpkin pies!).
More interesting Halloween facts have to do with witches. "Witch" comes from the Saxon word wicca which means 'wise one'. Witches were thought to be wise enough to tell the future.
Did you know that orange and black became Halloween colors because orange is associated with harvests and black is associated with death.
Halloween is the 8th largest card-sending occasion. There are over 28 million Halloween cards sent each year!
Some so-called vampire bats do drink blood, but they're not from Transylvania. They live in Central and South America and feed on cattle, horses, and birds.
Of all canned fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is the best source of vitamin A. Just a half-cup of the orange stuff has more than three times the recommended daily requirement.
With an estimated $1.93 billion in candy sales, Halloween is the sweetest holiday of the year (beating out Easter, Valentine's Day, and Christmas). In fact, one quarter of all the candy sold each year is purchased between September 15 and November 10. Now that's one of the sweetest Halloween facts around!
90% of the pumpkin is made up of water.
The world's fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin is 54.72 seconds, by Stephen Clarke (USA), on October 23, 2001 (source: Guinness World Records)
Did you know: A traditional food eaten on Halloween is barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake that, it is said, can foretell the eater's future. If a ring is found, it means that the person will soon be wed; a piece of straw means that a prosperous year is on its way.
The history of Halloween dates back to 5th century BC, to the Celtic celebration of the dead. A Celtic festival was held on November 1, the first day of the Celtic New Year. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en).
The word is pronounced "sow-in", with "sow" rhyming with "cow". According to the Irish English dictionary, the word "Samhain" is the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May. The word is known to be broken down to Sam + Fun, which means 'end of summer'.
The end of summer was significant to the Celts because it meant the time of year when the structure of their lives changed drastically. The cattle were brought down from the summer pastures in the hills and the people were gathered into the houses for the long winter nights of storytelling and handicrafts.
The Celts had 3 harvests. Samhain was the final harvest of the year. Anything left on the vines or in the fields after this date was considered blasted by the fairies, or "pu'ka", and unfit for human consumption. Fairies were imagined as particularly active at this season.
As far as the history of Halloween goes, on October 31st after the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). The Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin.
When the morning arrived the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits.
The Samhain festival would last for approximately 3 days. Many people would parade in costumes made from the skins and heads of their animals. The Celts did not have demons and devils in their belief system. The fairies, however, were often considered hostile and dangerous to humans because they were seen as being resentful of men taking over their lands. On this night, the fairies were thought of sometimes tricking humans into becoming lost in the fairy mounds, where they would be trapped forever.
So, an important question regarding the history of Halloween, is where did the word "Halloween" come from?
Much later down the timeline of the history of Halloween, a Christian feast day dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the martyrs was moved to November 1st from May 13th by the Roman Catholic Church in 835 AD in order to mark the dedication of the All Saints Chapel in Rome- establishing November 1st as 'All Saints Day' and October 31st as "All Hallow Even", eventually "All Hallow's Eve", "Hallowe'en", and then - "Halloween".
When the potato crop in Ireland failed (around the 1840's) many of the Irish people, modern day descendents of the Celts, immigrated to America , bringing with them their folk practices, which are the remnants of the Celtic festival observances. This migration had a great impact on the history of Halloween. The first lighted fruit was really carved out of gourds and turnips (just like in the folk tale). European custom also included carving scary faces into the gourds and placing embers inside to light them. This was believed to ward off evil spirits, especially spirits which roamed the streets and countryside during All Hallows Eve. Once coming to America , they quickly discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve.
There are those who believe that the Jack-o-lantern custom comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The spread of Christianity didn't cause people forget their early customs. On the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31, people continued to celebrate the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day. Over the years, and throughout the history of Halloween, the customs from all these holidays mixed.
The tradition of bobbing for apples is also part of the history of Halloween and is known to have come about from the Roman's Pomona Day. Romans honored the dead with a festival called Feralia in late October. It honored Pomona , their goddess of fruit trees who was often pictured wearing a crown of apples. During this festival, they ran races and played games to honor the "Apple Queen" and used omens such as apple parings thrown over the shoulder or nuts burned in the fire in order to predict the future concerning their marital prospects. When the Romans conquered the Celts, they combined local Samhain customs with their own pagan harvest festival. Bobbing for apples was derived from this blended pagan celebration.
The witch is a central symbol of Halloween and is identified with the holiday throughout the history of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wicca, meaning 'wise one'. When setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier. Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams.
Halloween, referred to as All Hallows Eve, was originally a pagan holiday in which they honored the dead. It was celebrated on October 31 since this was the last day of the Celtic calendar. The celebration dates back some 2,000 years.
- The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts wondered the streets on all Hallows Eve so they began wearing masks and costumes in order to not be recognized as human.
- The jack-o-lantern tradition comes from an old Irish folk tale about a man named Stingy Jack. It was said that he was unable to get into heaven and was turned away from the devil because of his tricky ways. So he set off to wander the world looking for a resting place. For light, Stingy Jack used a burning coal ember in a hollowed out turnip. When the Irish immigrated to the U.S. during the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1850, they found that turnips were not as readily available like they were in the homeland. So they started carving pumpkins as a replacement for their tradition.
- On Halloween, Irish peasants would beg the rich for food. For those that refused, they would play a practical joke. So, in an effort to avoid being tricked, the rich would hand out cookies, candy, and fruit – a practice that morphed into trick-or-treating today.
- Of all the candy sold annually, one quarter of it is sold during Halloween time (September – November 10) making it the sweetest holiday of the year.
- Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America
- The number one candy of choice for Halloween is Snickers
- There are an estimated 106 million potential treat-or-treat stops (i.e., housing units occupied year-round, per the U.S. Census)
- Halloween is the second most commercially successful holiday, beat out only by Christmas
- The U.S. consumer spends upwards of $1.5 billion on Halloween costumes annually and more than $2.5 billion on other Halloween paraphernalia, such as decorations, crafts, etc. More than $100,000 of that is said to be spent online
- Candy sales in the U.S. for Halloween average $2 billion annually
- Halloween is the third biggest party day of the year behind New Year’s and Super Bow l Sunday, respectively
- 86% of Americans decorate their homes at Halloween
- Halloween is the 8th largest card sending holiday. The first Halloween greeting is dated back to early 1900 and today consumers spend around $50 million dollars on Halloween cards each year.
- Of the pumpkins marketed domestically, 99% of them are used as Jack-o-lanterns at Halloween
- Approximately 82% of children and 67% of adults take part in Halloween festivities every year
- The official Orange and Black colors of Halloween came from orange being associated with fall harvest and black symbolizing darkness and death.
- There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with “orange”
Random Halloween Trivia
- In the movie “Halloween” the mask worn by Michael Meyers is actually the mask of William Shatner painted white
- Magician, Harry Houdini died on Halloween, 1926 in Detroit, MI.