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10 things you need to know about… Halloween

PUBLISHED: 16:13 16 October 2013 | UPDATED: 16:13 16 October 2013

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Archant

1 Halloween, celebrated on October 31, has origins that date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a celebration that marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold, dark winter. Celts believed that at Samhain, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.

2 The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840s by Irish immigrants fleeing their country’s potato famine. Typical pranks played during All Hallow’s Eve included tipping over outhouses and unhinging gates. In their defence, the Irish also brought Guinness to America, although this isn’t a great deal of comfort if your shed has just been upended.

3 According to Woolworths, spending on Halloween costumes, props and sweets has risen tenfold in just six years to a record £140m.

4 Around 99pc of pumpkins sold in Britain – the majority of which are grown in Spalding, Lincolnshire – are used for Halloween Jack O’Lanterns. This is because 99pc of all recipes involving pumpkins result in a fibrous, brown mulch that you wouldn’t feed to your worst enemy.

5 Norfolk’s famous devil dog, Black Shuck, is said to cross Coltishall Bridge at midnight on Halloween, although looking out for him isn’t advised; one glance into his glowing red eyes and it’s said you won’t see another morning.

6 Halloween is the one evening of the year when leaving the house looking like one of Macbeth’s crones isn’t just acceptable, it’s commendable.

7 Apple bobbing, a game involving catching apples floating in a tub of water with one’s teeth, is popular at Halloween. Tradition has it that the first unmarried person to successfully take a bite will be the next to marry.

8 According to the latest figures, the most popular Halloween costumes for adults include: sexy witch, sexy devil, sexy pirate and sexy vampire. The first Halloween costumes involved the Celts wearing hollowed-out animal heads – not very sexy, but far more effective at scaring away evil spirits (and anyone else in eyeshot).

9 The custom of trick or treating is thought to have originated with a ninth-century European custom called “souling”, when on November 2, All Soul’s Day, Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes” in return for prayers. Today, Halloween is the one night of the year when huge numbers of parents actively encourage their children to go out in the dark and accept sweets from strangers.

10 Black and orange are the traditional Halloween colours. The first is very flattering if you’re trying to disguise a less-than-perfect figure, the latter very definitely is not.

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