The Origin Of Some Spooky Halloween Traditions

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Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the United States (Credit: The B's/CC0/Flickr)

Few countries celebrate Halloween with as much fervor and excitement as the US. Children and adults alike observe the occasion by dressing in creative costumes, gorging on candy, and decorating homes and front yards with spooky skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns. Meanwhile, enterprising entrepreneurs cash in on the holiday with creative haunted houses, corn mazes, and hayrides. So, how did all the fun customs come about? Read on:

Trick-or-treating

Even dogs get into the Halloween spirit (Credit: AglampetGruodje/CC BY-SA 4.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

Halloween's most beloved tradition — trick-or-treating — is attributed to the Roman All Souls' Day holiday. On this day, residents in need would knock on the doors of the wealthy and offer a prayer for their dead, in exchange for a round, spiced treat called soul cake. "Souling" took a twist in Ireland and Scotland, when kids in costumes started to get treats in exchange for singing, reciting poems, or performing tricks. Immigrants from the two countries introduced the fun custom to America in the early 19th century, and the rest, as they say, is history!

How did candy become the treat of choice?

M&M’s top the most popular candy choices in the United States (Credit: Morningconsult.com)

While today, most people give out candy to trick-or-treaters, that was not the case in the mid-20th century. Kids also received fruits, nuts, coins, and even small toys. In the 1950s, candy companies tried to capitalize on the growing popularity of trick-or-treating by offering small, individually-wrapped confections. Though that helped increase sales, candy did not become the dominant treat until the 1970s, after parents began fearing accepting anything unwrapped.

Today, over 600 million pounds — about 24 pounds per American — of candy are sold each year on Halloween! The holiday accounts for about 10 percent of annual candy sales and yields manufacturers over $2.6 billion annually! A recent survey of 2,200 adults, conducted by Morningconsult.com, found that M&M’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were the confections of choice, with Kit Kats, Hershey's bars, and Snickers rounding up the top five.

Jack-o’-lanterns

The Irish used turnips or beets to carve jack-o’-lanterns (Credit: Cristian Ungureanu/CC0/Flickr)

No Halloween is complete without spending many hours transforming pumpkins into spooky jack-o’-lanterns. This fun custom was started by the Irish, who used turnips or beets for their ghoulish creations. After coming to America, the immigrants switched to the orange gourds, which are both plentiful and easier to carve.

Decorating with black and orange

Orange and black are synonymous with Halloween (Credit: Public domain/Pxhere)

Black and orange are so closely associated with Halloween that the combination is rarely seen outside of October. The custom can be traced back to the 2000-year-old Celtic festival Samhain. Observed every November 1 in what is now modern-day Ireland, it marked the end of the harvest season and the start of winter. Black represented the "death" of summer, while orange symbolized the autumn harvest season.

Happy Halloween!

Resources: Mentalfloss.com, Wikipeida.org, history.com

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247 Comments
  • ethanol0825
    ethanol0825about 12 hours
    That is scary
    • strangeykid99
      Your right and if you have braces you can not eat the penut ones!
      • glamsquad
        glamsquad8 days
        No respect for lemon heads!!!!!? M&MS are discussing you can get better chocolate from school!
        • glamsquad
          glamsquad8 days
          No respect for lemon heads!!!!??? Just m&m are discussing you can get better chocolate from school!!
          • watermelongummi
            Sour Patch Kids Are The Best!!
            • newsgirl11
              newsgirl1113 days
              Wow! That is really cool! But why is candy corn at the bottom?
              • aestheticblues
                aestheticbluesabout 10 hours
                Honestly, candy corn is the underdog of candy.
              • tiny8
                tiny815 days
                Why are kids not allowed to vote?!!!!!!!!!!!! It is not fair.😡
                • kq
                  kq14 days
                  if we could vote it would be bad because we don't know anything about politics, even people who can choose not to because they don't know or don't want to choose. Also,
                • tiny8
                  tiny815 days
                  Why vegetables? I don't really like vegetables.
                  • glamsquad
                    glamsquad8 days
                    I'm with you sister!
                    • karley1213
                      karley121311 days
                      Vegetables are good for you! #stayvegan!! #healthyqueens
                    • tiny8
                      tiny815 days
                      Yeah. I mean, why did they choose turnips and beets? They are both vegetables.
                      • bowyer
                        bowyer19 days
                        I know right?