Halloween is a celebration of all things spooky, and in the United States it's surrounded by a few odd traditions like trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving, but how much do you really know about Halloween? Turns out it's not only about who gets the most chocolate or creates the scariest costume.
Over the centuries, the holiday has evolved from a way of begging for food to one of the most commercialized days of the entire year. Here are a few interesting facts about how some of today's practices got started as well as other fun tidbits about the unique holiday.
1. “Jack o'lantern” comes from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack
Legend has it that Stingy Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him, but Jack didn't want to pay for the drink so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin. Instead of buying the drink, he pocketed the coin and kept it close to a silver cross in his house, so the devil couldn't take shape again. He promised to let the devil go as long as he would leave him alone for a year – and if Jack died that the devil wouldn't claim his soul.
After a year, Jack tricked the devil again to leave him alone and not claim his soul. Basically, the devil is really gullible in this story. When Jack died, God didn't want such a conniving person in heaven, and the devil true to his word (what a good guy) would not allow him into hell.
Jack was sent off into the night with only a burning coal to light his path. He placed the coal inside a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. People in Ireland and Scotland began creating their own creations of Jack's lanterns out of turnips, beets and potatoes. The tradition came to the United States along with the immigrants and people began to use pumpkins, native to North America, for the lanterns instead.
2. The holiday goes back more than 2,000 years
Halloween all started as a pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain (which means "summer's end") held around the first of November. It celebrated the final day of the harvest and the crossing of spirits over into the other world. People in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France would ward off ghosts by lighting sacrificial bonfires, and, you guessed it, wearing costumes, according to History.com.
3. Candy corn was originally called Chicken Feed
Though many would argue that candy corn tastes like chicken feed, that's not how it got its original name. Created in 1880 by George Renninger, it was sold to the masses by Goelitz Confectionery Company (now Jelly Belly Co.) at the turn of the century. Because corn is what was used to feed chickens, the creation was called Chicken Feed and the box was marked with a colorful rooster.
4. Some Halloween rituals used to involve finding a husband
During the 18th century, ladies would follow Halloween traditions that would "help" them find a romantic match. According to History.com, women would: Throw apple peels over their shoulder hoping to see their future husband’s initials, competitively bob for apples at parties because the winner would be the first to get married, and stand in a dark room with a candle in front of a mirror to look for their future husband’s face. Thankfully, those traditions have died out.
5. Trick-or-treating comes from“souling”
Having children dress up in costume and go door-to-door like little beggars demanding treats is kind of weird. Like several other Halloween activities, the tradition can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the rituals of Samhain. It was believed that ghosts and spirits walked the Earth on the night of Samhain, so people would dress up as spirits themselves in an effort to fool the real deal into thinking they were one and the same.
This act was called "guising." As the Catholic Church started supplanting pagan festivals with their own holidays (like All Saints' Day), the act of guising became popular and poor children and adults would go door to door dressed as angels or spirits on Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers. This was called "souling." The earliest known reference to the phrase "trick-or-treat" in North America is from 1927 in Alberta, Canada.
5. Sugar rationing during World War II halted trick-or-treating.
After the rationing ended, the tradition grew into what we're familiar with today. Candy companies started launching advertising campaigns to capitalize on the ritual.
6. Michael Myers' mask is actually a William Shatner mask
The 1978 horror classic Halloween can be easily recognized in just one image: the psychotic Michael Myers in his iconic pale-faced mask. Without a doubt, it's one chilling look that has struck terror in the hearts of fans for decades.
The film was actually on such a tight budget that the crew used the cheapest mask they could find: a $2 Star Trek William Shatner mask. Production designer Tommy Lee Wallace picked up two masks from a Hollywood Boulevard magic shop: a clown and William Shatner as Captain Kirk in Star Trek.
"Tommy came in with the clown mask on, and we went, 'Ooh, that’s kind of scary.' Then he put on the Shatner mask, and we stopped dead and said, 'It’s perfect,'" actor Nick Castle told the New York Times. They spray-painted it white, cut the eye holes bigger, and the rest is history.
7. The fastest pumpkin carving lasted 16.47 seconds
Stephen Clarke holds the honor. The jack-o'-lantern had to contain a complete face, including eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
8. The most lit jack o'lanterns on display is 30,581
According to Guinness World Records, the highest number of lit jack o'lanterns on display is 30,581 by the City of Keene, N.H. in 2013. The City of Keenne, represented by Let it Shine, has broken the record 8 times over since the original attempt. That's a whole lot of pumpkins!
9. Largest Pumpkin Every Recorded
10. Skittles are the top Halloween Candy