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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253 Comments
  • tiny8
    tiny83 months
    Why are kids not allowed to vote?!!!!!!!!!!!! It is not fair.😡
    • kq
      kq2 months
      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
      tiny83 months
      Why vegetables? I don't really like vegetables.
      • glamsquad
        glamsquad2 months
        I'm with you sister!
        • karley1213
          karley12132 months
          Vegetables are good for you! #stayvegan!! #healthyqueens
        • tiny8
          tiny83 months
          Yeah. I mean, why did they choose turnips and beets? They are both vegetables.
          • bowyer
            bowyer3 months
            I know right?
            • taco_pizza
              taco_pizza3 months
              I can't believe the carved turnips or beats😧
            • kalan12011
              kalan120113 months
              I like this one better than any other one
              • bibyvihavafy
                bibyvihavafy3 months
                I like this one I love Halloween
                • dachshund64
                  dachshund643 months
                  😳 woah
                  • doglover17735
                    why does no one like sour patch kids?????? :/
                    • tiny8
                      tiny83 months
                      Kids aren't allowed to vote.
                      • karley1213
                        karley12132 months
                        I voted for my class president.
                      • tiny8
                        tiny83 months
                        I don't think adults really like Sour Patch Kids. Kids didn't vote.
                        • femyjira-163597698057
                          I know right
                        • 26lanewhittle
                          OMG I just can't believe they put sour patch kids all the way at the bottom...