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Five Things You Might Not Know About Halloween

10/30/2013 08:54 EDT | Updated 12/30/2013 05:12 EST

It's almost All Hallow's Eve and people from age three to age 99 will be dressing up in costume, eating candy, and partying the night away on this spooky, festive occasion. Most people know the history of Halloween at this point: 16 century Celts believed that the dead and the supernatural could walk amongst the living at a certain time of year and the best way to protect against them was to be disguised that way. Over the years, the holiday has changed, grown, and mutated. Below are Five Random Facts About Halloween you just might not know.

5. It's Newer In North America Than You Think. It seems that Halloween traditions have been around as long as Western Culture itself. But the truth is that it took much longer to catch on here than people realize. Trick-or-Treating is probably the most known and practised Halloween tradition, and it dates back to the 16th century. British, Scottish, and Irish people would go to the doors of wealthier citizens on November 1 (Hallowmas) and offer to pray for the souls of the dead (November 2 is All Soul's Day) in exchange for food. The tradition was known as "Souling," and it is often compared to wassailing at Christmas. Despite the fact that it has existed for centuries, "souling" was not common in North America, and there's little recording of children dressing in disguise and asking for treats before the 1930s. For generations, "souling" and Halloween festivities were celebrated separately, only coming together over the last part of the past century. The term "Trick-or-Treat" did not even appear in a national publication until 1939.

4. The Night Watchman Evolved Into a Pumpkin. What's Halloween without a Jack-o-Lantern? This is of course when a pumpkin is hollowed out, a face is carved upon it, and a candle is placed inside to illuminate the artwork. Legends abound regarding the history of the Jack-o-Lantern, many about a man named "Jack" who tricked the Devil and avoided eternity in Hell. Some of these tales involve Jack being tricked right back, forced to wander the earth with a Hell-flame in a pumpkin, waiting an eternal resting place that will never come, since neither Hell nor Heaven will take him. Cautionary tales aside, the actual history has nothing to do with biblical caution. The term Jack-o-Lantern originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern. The earliest known use dates back to the mid-17th century. Pumpkin carving evolved from the Irish tradition of carving turnips, but pumpkins were more plentiful in North America. Jack-o-Lanterns were also a Thanksgiving tradition, eventually adopted almost exclusively by Halloween festivities.

3. Everyone is Doing It. For a holiday that has been around for about a century in North America, Halloween is hugely popular. More than 93 per cent of children under 13 go trick-or-treating every year. Over 85 per cent of North Americans decorate their houses for Halloween and more than 10 per cent of pet owners dress their animals for the holiday. Every year, there is someone you know who will tell you that they "don't celebrate Halloween" or refuse to dress in costume or even give out candy. Those people are firmly in the minority, as the rest of the continent participates some way or another. Over 50 per cent of North American adults will dress in costume during the season and around 70 per cent will attend or throw a party of some sort.

2. Kids Are Safer Than You Think. Every year, there's a "Candy Scare" in every other city in North America. In the '80s, the big scare was razor blades. Awful people were reportedly putting razor blades in candy and, more specifically, candy apples. The candy tampering scare has risen to the point that some clinics and hospitals offer free x-rays of children's candy bags. All of this is much ado about nothing, it seems, because there have been reportedly only five cases of Halloween candy tampering, each of which was an isolated case of deliberate poisoning by a family member (!) and not anonymous tampering. Reported deaths from Halloween candy tampering since 1974? One. The culprit was the child's father. In fact, almost every case of "candy tampering" over the past 30 years has been either unsubstantiated or an outright hoax. Most of the cases have been proven to be falsified claims by family members or by the children themselves. It seems that the "Candy Tampering Scare" of the late '70s and early '80s perpetuated more false claims than it actually prevented, as most reported cases were the result of media scare than actual occurrences. Chances are you'll never find a razor blade in your kids' candy. An easy solution? Eat half of everything they bring home yourself.

1. It's a HUGE Money Maker. Of course Halloween is popular. But more so than you might think. In fact, Halloween is the second-biggest commercial holiday of the year, only behind Christmas. Candy cash alone skyrockets every October. More than 35-million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year. Not too shabby for a treat that most people eat only once a year. Halloween candy sales exceeds two-billion dollars per year, surpassing both Christmas and Easter. The average household spends over 20 bucks per year on Halloween candy, whether it's for the kids or just for hoarding. And 1.5-billion dollars is spent every year on Halloween costumes that most people will only wear once, and an additional two-billion dollars is spent on random other Halloween accessories. All told, North Americans will spend around seven-billion dollars this year on Halloween. The average amount spent per person on all things Halloween? Seventy bucks per year.

There you have it. A quick list of random things about All Hallow's Even you just might not have known. Quick addition: Most common candy given out every year in North America? Snickers miniatures. And, if you're thinking of dressing as Batman, know that he's one of the top five costumes every year. What's your costume?

Ward Anderson is a comedian, author, and one half of the daily talk radio program "Ward and Al", which is heard on SiriusXM satellite radio. His first novel will be released by Kensington Books in the spring of 2014. This Halloween, he is dressing up as his co-host, comedian Allison Dore.

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