Halloween, or "All Hallows Eve" is the day before All Saints Day, derived from Hallowe'en. It is a Celtic practice in origin originally called Samhain, partly intended to mark the beginning of winter and the end of fall (the harvest season), and partly based on the belief that on this day the veil between the afterlife and the current material world subsides, allowing spirits to roam free in the world for a day. The act of donning costumes began as a ritual to disguise oneself against recognition by these spirits. Trick-or-treating began as a ritual called "souling",where "soul cakes" were given to children and the poor who went door to door singing hymms for the dead. Jack-o-lanterns have a somewhat vague origin; some believe it traces back to the story of Stingy Jack, who duped the Devil into never taking his soul, and was forced to wander the earth forever holding his glowing essence in a gourd, hence, Jack of the Lantern.
Today, Halloween is celebrated a number of different way in the United States, but the most prominent of which is New York's Halloween Day Parade in Greenwich Villiage. The parade was initiated in 1974 by a puppetmaster named Ralph Lee, and today sees over 50,000 people in costumes, elaborate floats, musical acts, and countless performing artists akin to a moving circus. 600 volunteers build and assist with float construction and the maintenance of the puppets that are the parade's legace. The event is currently televised in primetime to hundreds of millions of viewers each year, and 2014 marked its 40th anniversary with the theme "The Garden of Earthly Delights".
- According to a poll by the U.S. Census Bureau, 90% of parents admit to sneaking candy from their children's stash.
- 72% of American adults hand out candy on Halloween.
- Nearly half those polled claimed to decorate their yards.
- Collectively, U.S. citizens spend from $5-6 billion on the holiday, purchasing cards, candy, and costumes.
- Famed magician Harry Houdi died on Halloween of 1926.
- The fear of Halloween (not the typical fun "fright", but genuine, morbid fear) is called samhainophobia.
- The largest pumpkin ever recorded was planted and grown by Norm Craven in 1993, which weighed 836 pounds (379 kilograms).