Did you know the very first jack-o'-lanterns were made from carved turnips?
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As Halloween approaches, I’ve been planning my DIY Halloween costume and dreaming about the amount of candy corn I’ll eat this year as I pass out wrapped candy bars to trick-or-treaters. But as I prepare, I got to wondering about some of the most popular Halloween traditions—like why we carve faces into pumpkins or go door-to-door asking our neighbors for candy. 

It turns out, the Halloween holiday is actually a combination of a number of different cultural celebrations, so our traditions come from all over the world. Brush up on your Halloween trivia and discover some of the most interesting facts about Halloween. 

Outdoor Halloween decor with crows and carved pumpkins
Credit: Adam Albright

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Halloween Comes from an Ancient Celtic Festival 

The origins of Halloween can be traced all the way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celtic people celebrated their new year on November 1 by lighting bonfires, dressing in costumes, and telling fortunes. This celebratory practice is likely why we light candles inside pumpkins and don costumes for modern day Halloween celebrations. 

Jack-o-Lanterns Originated in Ireland 

It wouldn’t be Halloween without carving a funny face into a pumpkin, but have you ever stopped to wonder why we carve jack-o’-lanterns? It turns out, this tradition can be credited to the Irish myth of Stingy Jack, an Irishman who liked to play tricks on people (this is also likely where the phrase ‘trick or treat’ comes from). When Jack died, his spirit was made to pay for the tricks he played on people: He was forced to roam the earth as a ghost who carried a carved turnip as a lantern. 

Kids Used to Carve Turnips, Beets, and Potatoes 

Speaking of turnips: The very first jack-o’-lanterns were actually made from carved turnips, beets, and potatoes. Modern carved pumpkins weren’t part of Halloween tradition until Irish immigrants came to America in the 1800s and discovered pumpkins were far easier to carve

October 30 is National Candy Corn Day 

Of course the main event happens on October 31, but there is plenty of reason to celebrate on Halloween Eve too: October 30 is National Candy Corn Day! More than 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced each year, although it’s not always the most popular Halloween candy

Halloween Is the Second Most Expensive Holiday in the U.S.

It’s estimated that Americans spend approximately $9 billion on Halloween each year, which means the expense of the holiday is second only to Christmas. While the majority of that money is spent on costumes, pumpkins, and bags of trick-or-treat candy, $9 billion could also buy a lot of candy corn

The Heaviest Pumpkin Ever Recorded Weighed 2,528 Pounds

While picking the biggest pumpkin at the pumpkin patch is a fun fall tradition, we’re pretty sure no one carried this pumpkin out of the patch. The largest pumpkin ever recorded was grown in Deerfield, New Hampshire, and weighed a whopping 2,528 pounds

Finding True Love was Once a Halloween Tradition

In the early 1800s, young women believed that they could find out the name of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple peelings, and mirrors. Thankfully, this practice later morphed into the traditional “trick-or-treat” tradition we know and love today that involves more mainstream “tricks” like jokes or magic tricks. 

‘Hocus Pocus’ Is the Most Popular Halloween Movie

While scary movies are typically associated with Halloween, a horror movie isn’t the most popular film to watch during the season. It doesn’t truly feel like Halloween until we’ve watched Hocus Pocus at least twice, so it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular Halloween movie. Before this year’s viewing, be sure to brush up on these fun facts about the film

Princesses Are The Most Popular Halloween Costume

According to the National Retail Federation, the most-purchased children’s costumes last Halloween were princess costumes. They estimate that about 8% of all Halloween costumes purchased in 2019 were princess costumes. That’s a lot of mini Annas and Elsas! The most popular adult costume was a witch, and the most-purchased pet costumes were pumpkins and hot dogs. 

The Largest Jack-o’-Lantern Display Had More Than 30,500 Pumpkins 

In 2013, the city of Keene, New Hampshire, broke the record for the largest display of Jack-o’-Lanterns with a collection of 30,581 carved pumpkins. That’s a lot of glowing pumpkins lighting up the streets! 

Candy Corn Was Originally Called Chicken Feed 

Candy corn has been around since the 1880s, but it wasn’t a popular treat originally—potentially because it was called ‘Chicken Feed.’ Candy corn is made to look like corn kernels, which was primarily eaten by chickens at that time. Once the candy was rebranded to Candy Corn in the 1950s, it became increasingly popular. 

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