Black cats, ghouls and goblins, sugary treats — just about everyone's familiar with the traditional trappings of halloween. But how did an ancient pagan ritual grow into the most beloved kids' night of the year? Read on for details about october 31, from its humble beginnings to its big-bucks present.

Halloween history

• many experts believe the druids were the first to observe halloween. Dating back to 700 b.C., they celebrated the festival of samhain (the end of the harvest and a time to honor the dead) on november 1. In the ensuing years, the night before became known as the eve of all hallows, a.K.A. Hallow even, a.K.A. Hallow e'en.

• ever wonder how trick-or-treating got started? On the evening before samhain, people left food on their doorsteps to keep hungry spirits from entering the house. Festivalgoers started dressing in ghost, witch, and goblin costumes so wandering spirits would leave them alone. To this day, these are halloween's most popular costumes.

• the word witch comes from the saxon word wicca, which means "wise one."

amazing animals

• black cats, those customary halloween icons, were originally believed to be witches' familiars, a kind of cosmic sidekick who protected the witches' powers from negative forces.

• 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.

Food facts

• the biggest pumpkin in the world tipped the scales at a whopping 1,446 pounds. This gigantic gourd was weighed in october 2004 at a pumpkin festival in port elgin, ontario, canada.

• 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.

• the very first jack o' lantern was made out of a turnip.

Big business

• halloween isn't just for kids. While 82 percent of children take part in halloween festivities, a surprising 67 percent of adults also join in the fun.

• candy corn, anyone? 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.

• u.S. Consumers spend as much as $ 1.5 billion on costumes each year, and more than $ 2.5 billion on other halloween paraphernalia, such as decorations and crafts — more than $ 100 million of which is spent online.

• the first halloween card was made in the early 1900s. These days, u.S. Consumers spend about $ 50 million on halloween greetings.
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replied October 24th, 2004
Extremely eHealthy
I posted this in the other topic..But since you made new one...

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient celtic festival of samhain (pronounced sow-in). The celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now ireland, the united kingdom, and northern france, celebrated their new year on november 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of october 31, they celebrated samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the druids, or celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the celtic deities. During the celebration, the celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By a.D. 43, romans had conquered the majority of celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the celtic lands, two festivals of roman origin were combined with the traditional celtic celebration of samhain. The first was feralia, a day in late october when the romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor pomona, the roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of christianity had spread into celtic lands. In the seventh century, pope boniface iv designated november 1 all saints' day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called all-hallows or all-hallowmas (from middle english alholowmesse meaning all saints' day) and the night before it, the night of samhain, began to be called all-hallows eve and, eventually, halloween. Even later, in a.D. 1000, the church would make november 2 all souls' day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of all saints', all saints', and all souls', were called hallowmas.
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replied October 24th, 2004
Extremely eHealthy
They make halloween cards???! That's just bonkers!
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