Fun Facts about the Spooky Holiday Samhain, or Halloween!

Pumpkins, monsters, and ghosts, oh my!

Tazia Wootten Oct 31, 2012

It’s that time of year again when the air is crisp and the ghouls come out to play: Halloween! Who doesn’t love a good costume party or carving pumpkins? Many, however, don’t know all of the history behind this spooky holiday. National Geographic® News has provided fun and interesting historical facts about Halloween that may have slipped under the radar over the years.

Halloween’s Origin

Origins of this holiday date back to more than 2,000 years, to European Celtic people who celebrated New Year’s Day on November 1.  This celebration was called Samhain (SAH-win). The night that we know as Halloween, was the night before Samhain to this ancient people where spirits, fairies, demons and other creatures were thought to roam the Earth as they ventured to the afterlife.

During the major immigration phase in the 1800’s, European immigrants, predominantly the Irish-American population, brought the celebration of Halloween to the United States.  The city of Anoka, Minnesota, dates back as possibly the oldest United States celebration of Halloween beginning in 1920.  The city would stage a parade and bonfire on the holiday.

Halloween Costumes

According to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress, they state that the Celtic people often wore costumes when sacrificing animals to the gods.  The Celtics believed that by dressing in costume, most likely animal skins, that it would confuse the spirits and eliminate their probability of becoming possessed. They also wore masks or blackened their faces to imitate their ancestors that had passed.

In 2008, NRF conducted a survey on the most popular Halloween costume-children and adults alike. Here are the top five for each category:

Top Five Most Popular Adult Costumes:

  1. Witch (14.9 percent)
  2. Pirate (4.4 percent)
  3. Vampire (3.3 percent)
  4. Cat (2.5 percent)
  5. (tie). Fairy or Nurse (1.7 percent)

Top Five Most Popular Children’s Costumes:

  1. Princess (10.5 percent)
  2. Witch (3.9 percent)
  3. Hannah Montana (3.7 percent)
  4. Spider-Man (3.5 percent)
  5. Pirate (3.3 percent)


Possibly inspired by an earlier tradition, Celts would dress in costume and travel from house to house performing entertaining acts in exchange for food and drink; thus, engaging in an early form of trick-or-treating.


Originally the pumpkin is imported from Central America, but in the United States, Illinois generates over 90 percent of pumpkin produce.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin were grown in 2007 totaling a value of about $117 million. Currently, the world record for the largest pumpkin was found in Rhode Island, totaling 1,689 pounds (766 kilograms).

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The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes. It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal, investment or business advice.

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