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10 Fascinating facts about Halloween

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1. Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, can be traced back about 2,000 years to a pre-Christian Celtic festival held around November 1st called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), which means “summer’s end” in Gaelic. Primarily a harvest festival, it was also viewed as the beginning of the year and a time when the dead could return to earth.

2. Halloween was influenced by the ancient Roman festival Pomona, which celebrated the harvest goddess of the same name. Interestingly, many Halloween customs and games that feature apples (such as bobbing for apples) and nuts date from this time. In fact, in the past, Halloween has been called San-Apple Night and Nutcrack Night.

3. Trick or Treating comes from the medieval custom of “souling” in Britain and Ireland, when poor people would knock on doors on Hallowmas (November 1st), asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead.

4. Trick-or-treating didn’t start in the United States until World War II, but American kids were known to go out on Thanksgiving and ask for food — a practice known as Thanksgiving begging.

5. The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” In fact, wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.

6. The British tradition of carving a scary face into a vegetable was originally done with turnips. When Irish immigrants came to the US and brought the tradition of Halloween with them, they switched to carving pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns because they were cheaper. Although pumpkins are typically orange, did you know the gourd can be found in many different colors? It’s not uncommon to see white, red, green, yellow and even blue pumpkins!

7. Bats are connected to Halloween by the ancient Samhain ritual of building a bonfire, which drove away insects and attracted bats. Bats were encouraged because they ate annoying insects like mosquitoes.

8. Candy makers supposedly lobbied to extend daylight savings time into the beginning of November to get an extra hour of daylight so children could collect even more candy (thus forcing people to purchase more candy to meet the demand).

9. More than twice as much chocolate is sold for Halloween as for Valentine’s Day; 90 million pounds of chocolate are sold during Halloween week alone. In total, $1.9 billion is spent on Halloween candy each year. In fact, Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday in the US- only Christmas is bigger!

10. Pure logic demonstrates that vampires are impossible. According to livescience.com, “Legend has it that vampires feed on human blood, and once bitten, the victim also becomes a vampire and starts feasting on the blood of others. This supposedly accounts for an exponential increase of these widely feared creatures. The debunking logic goes like this: On Jan. 1, 1600, the human population was 536,870,911. If the first vampire came into existence that day and bit one person a month, there would have been two vampires by Feb. 1, 1600. A month later there would have been four, and so on. In just two-and-a-half years the original human population would all have become vampires with nobody left to feed on, even if our entire species doubled each month. So whatever you think you see prowling around on Oct. 31, it most certainly won’t turn you into a vampire and we won’t be living in a real-life, B-rated zombie movie anytime soon.”

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