The history of Halloween

Americans love Halloween, and despite the fact that the holiday has religious and European origins, we Americans have put our own unique spin on the day.

Halloween dates back thousands of years to the ancient Celtic peoples in England and Ireland, who lit large bonfires to herald the coming of winter and the increase in darkness. When the Romans conquered England and Ireland, their custom of commemorating the passing of the dead in late October became intermingled with the holiday.

Later, the Church wanted to create a holiday around the time of Halloween to make the Celtic celebrations sanctioned by the Church, and in the 800s, Pope Boniface IV picked Nov. 1 as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. Because saints were called hallows in Middle English, the day became known as All Hallows, and the night before became known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.

Although the English and Irish had previously carved faces into turnips or potatoes to ward off evil spirits, it was Americans who first carved pumpkins, which are native to North America, and placed them on their doorsteps.

Today, devils, ghosts and goblins are still an important part of Halloween, but it has lost much of its original religious undertones.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Halloween by the numbers


Year of the first official citywide Halloween celebration, in Anoka, Minn.

36 million

The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2007 — children 5 to 13 — across the United States. This number was down about 38,000 from a year earlier.

110.3 million

Number of occupied housing units across the nation in 2007 — potential stops for trick-or-treaters.


Percentage of households with residents who consider their neighborhood safe. In addition, 78 percent said there was no place within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.

1.1 billion pounds

Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2007. Illinois led the country by producing 542 million pounds. Pumpkin patches in California, New York and Ohio produced at least 100 million pounds each. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.


Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people and shipping $13.9 billion worth of goods.


Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured non-chocolate confectionery products in 2006. These establishments employed 18,733 people and shipped $7.2 billion worth of goods that year.

24.5 pounds

Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2007.


Number of costume-rental and formal-wear establishments across the nation in 2006.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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