Second only to Christmas, Halloween is the biggest grossing holiday of the year: approximately £310 million in UK is spent on related items as sweets, costumes, decorations and pumpkins.
But why is Halloween so popular among both children and adults? Where and when did all its traditions come from?
Here are 15 amazing facts that make Halloween the best holiday of the year.
- The modern name of “Halloween” comes from “Hallowe’en”, a contraction of the phrase All Hallows’ Eve. In Scots, the word “eve” is even, often contracted to e’en or een. Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Hallowe’en.
- It is believed Halloween originated around 4000 B.C. in Ireland. It was formerly the ancient pagan Celtic festival of “Samhain”, the celebration of the end of harvest season. People believed that on October 31 the dead would have come back to life wandering around the living for scaring them. Costumes and masks were used to keep malevolent ghosts away: scare the monsters with scary costumes..brilliant!
- Jack-o’-lantern refers to the grinning candlelit carved pumpkin, the most popular symbol associated with Halloween. According to a popular Irish folktale, Jack was a greedy sinful man who, after having tried to trick the devil, at his death he was denied entry into both heaven and hell. Jack used a coal to light a lantern he carried while wandering on Earth looking for a place to rest. Be careful with your treats kids, or you will walk as Jack does forever!
4. Trick or treat is a hugely important part of Halloween celebration: children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats (sweets or sometimes money) with the question “Trick or treat?”. The word “trick” means they “threat” to perform some mischieves if no treat is given. However some parents prefer not to allow children to do trick or treat in the streets.
“Some people are good, but others..you never know!” said Raphias, 40, parent of two children at Salusbury Primary School, Queen’s Park.
“When I was a kid I said to my mum ‘Mum, can I go?’ and she said no..now I can understand her. I prefer my children to celebrate Halloween here in the school.”
- Pumpkin carving comes from a method used by the Celts to repel evil spirits during the celebration. The top of the pumpkin is cut off from the lid, the filling is removed and a drawing, usually a frightful or funny face, is carved out of the rind to expose the hollow interior. A light source, a candle or a tea light, is placed inside the pumpkin before the lid is closed.
“We don’t set up decorations, only the two carved pumpkin,” said Gemina, manager of GAIL’s patisserie, Queen’s Park. “One of them is carved with the phrase ‘a loaf a day keeps the skeletons away’! You know, it’s the symbol of Halloween after all.”
- Kids are the main protagonists of Halloween and they generally choose their costumes and sweets.
“I buy my sons a few bags of different sweets so that they can choose,” says Raphias “I don’t want to disappoint them, it’s their party and I want them to be happy!”
Alex, shop assistant at the WWW – Wicked & Wise, Queen’s Park, says they have costumes for both adults and kids, but mainly for kids.
“When parents come to the shop with their children, kids generally choose the costume they like!”
- Adults also like celebrating Halloween. Costume parties are hold in pubs and clubs everywhere, and people usually buy their scaring costumes or they make them by themselves in advance.
“I usually make a combination between a purchased item and a self-made costume,” said Georgia, 30ish, project manager, Queen’s Park “But for my four month-old dog, Winston, I couldn’t resist buying a pumpkin costume!”
She says she’s going to celebrate Halloween with her friends to a house party and the main theme will be 80s horror movies.
“I don’t know yet if my costume will be more sexy or funny, it depends on the kind of men will attend the party,” she said “I won’t wear a wig for sure because it would be hot, but I’ll probably do a cat make up for my eyes! I can’t wait.”
- After Christmas, Halloween is the second most commercial holiday in both America and UK: about $6.9 billion are spent every year in America for sweets, costumes and parties, which equals in value about six Titanic ships. £310 million is spent in UK.
“Our sweets cost between £1.20 and £3.80 each,” said the manager of GAIL’s “and we sell about 80-100 per day, especially during the three-four days before October 31. People love them”
- Costumes are traditionally concerned about monsters, ghosts, skeletons, cats, zombies and devils, but the most popular one is still the witch. Over time, the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities and princesses.
“People enter in this shop because we generally set up the showcase with items that we sell, like witch costumes, wedding veil, orange pom-pom (you know, orange is the Halloween colour!)” said Alex, “we have also skeletons, bats, Zorros, the Joker, princesses and different kind of masks.”
“Customers generally spend about £25-30 for each child since costumes cost £20, masks and hats £5, and accessories as fake blood and face paint cost about £3. They seem very happy when they go away!”
- The ghost is another symbol of Halloween. Youngsters who want to create a real horrifying atmosphere for October 31 tend to organise parties in abandoned houses or even in residences that have been the site of murder, suicide and potential paranormal activities.
- Special games traditionally associated with Halloween are quite common. In apple bobbing for example, apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. Would you like to try it?
- Just like Christmas, Halloween has got his own typical food: bonfire toffee, toffee apples, caramel apples, caramel corn, Halloween cake, and sweets shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms and witches.
“We have a visual display of food,” said Gemina at GAIL’s “such as monster finger (soft and chewy almond macaroon with a whole blanched almond fingernail, attached with raspberry jam), skeleton cookies (chocolate biscuit made with dark cocoa powder) and skull cupcakes.”
If you were on a diet, you would better avoid this patisserie!
- Kids consume about 7000 calories only eating sweets during Halloween. It will be considered holiday also for dentists after all.
- There are people who can’t stand this holiday, maybe because they are afraid about the mischiefs that children could do if they’re not given the prizes: the fear of Halloween is called Samhainophobia. Don’t be afraid about fear!
- The modern imagery of Halloween comes from many sources, including works of Gothic and horror literature (Frankenstein and Dracula) and classic horror films and cartoons (Halloween and The nightmare before Christmas).
“We sell ghost stories and horror stories, such as Edgar Allan Poe books,” said Joe Conor, shop assistant at Queen’s Park Books. “Some of them cost £8.99, others £12.99. We have also scary tales for children, and they cost between £4.99 and £6.99.”
Marzia, 42, librarian at Kilburn Library, Queen’s Park, is setting up a visual display with cobwebs and plastic spiders.
“We generally show horror and crime fictions, but children books go faster than the adults ones!” said Marzia.
“Kids prefer vampire stories, The walking dead, and Buffy. We are able to lend them quite well! We are also deciding to organise a workshop for kids during which they will do handcraft costumes and masks, but we are not sure yet!”
Even at the cinema there’s the horror movie called Blair Witch, a remake of The Blair Witch Project.
Here there were the 15 amazing facts that make Halloween so special! Hope you have been inspired for your costumes, pumpkins, typical food and parties! And remember:
“Life’s no fun without a good scare!”