13 Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween

By Caitlin Agnew, readersdigest.ca

You know it’s spooky, creepy, and full of candy, but here are 13 things you might not have known about Halloween.

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Group dance around giant bonfire

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1. The beginnings are murky

With roots in pagan, Christian and possibly even Egyptian rituals, the exact origins of Halloween are murkier than a witch’s brew. The ancient Celtic festival Samhain, where revellers dressed in drag or wore cattle hides to scare off the roaming dead, is thought to have kick-started modern-day costume traditions.

Young girl trick-or-treating

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2. Trick or treat

When the North American practice of trick-or-treating became popular in the 1920s, disguised youngsters would threaten to pull pranks if they weren’t given candy. An article that appeared in an Alberta newspaper at the time playfully complained about “youthful tormenters” begging for “edible plunder.” The practice became widely accepted in the 1950s.

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Mexico's Day of the Dead

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3. There’s more than one way to celebrate

While Halloween as we know it is a Canadian and American tradition, many other countries celebrate the passing of dead spirits in late October and early November. On Mexico’s Day of the Dead, graveyards are flooded with people tidying relatives’ graves and bringing offerings of food, flowers and tequila. Some even stay to picnic and party.

Little girls in Halloween costumes

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4. Don’t you dare take it away!

Parents raised hell in 2012 when the principal of a Cambridge, Ont., elementary school banned Halloween in favour of a watered-down “black and orange spirit day” because not all children wore costumes to school. After students collected more than 100 signatures to protest the ban, the school board stepped in and reversed the decision.

Halloween cookies

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5. It’s all in the name

In 2008, WestJet decided to have a little holiday fun and offered free flights on October 31 to fliers with the last names Candy, Orange, Web and Sweet.

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Little kids with giant pumpkins

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6. How to trick-or-treat efficiently

While the American National Confectioners Association reports that 90 per cent of adults admit to taking some of their children’s loot, we’d put that figure closer to 100. To help your kids—and, let’s be honest, yourself—get a premium haul this year, choose a neighbourhood where the houses are close together and the front paths are short, for efficient trick-or-treating coverage.

Ballets en pointe

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7. The trends in costumes

Shayla Duval of Toronto’s Malabar Limited costume shop says that while there are certain standbys—the store sells a thousand sets of vampire fangs every October—every year there’s a wildly popular pop-culture look. “[In 2011], we sold out of black tutus, more than 150 of them, because everyone wanted to be Black Swan. The year before, everyone wanted to be Justin Bieber.”

Michael Myers Halloween mask

Photo: Willrow Hood/Shutterstock

8. How to scare everyone

Looking for a quick scare? Put on 1978’s Halloween, the slasher flick that launched a genre and Jamie Lee Curtis’s career. If the mask worn by psychotic villain Michael Myers looks familiar, it’s because the low-budget film used a mask from William Shatner’s days as Captain Kirk, painted white.

9. How to carve a pumpkin

  • Pick a pattern before buying a pumpkin so you’ll get the right shape.
  • Cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin big enough to allow you to easily clean out the inside, and keep the top to use as a lid.
  • Remove the pulp by scraping away the insides of the pumpkin until the sides are no more than an inch thick.
  • Use a dry-erase marker to draw on your pattern and follow the lines with a sharp paring knife.
  • Wash, dry and then roast the cleaned-out pumpkin seeds with olive oil for a snack.

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Pumpkin carving preparation

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10. Carve carefully

Tom Nardone, the author of three books on the art of extreme pumpkin carving, recommends using a drywall saw, found at most hardware stores, when removing the top of your jack-o’-lantern. “The stem area is the hardest part of the pumpkin, and using a kitchen knife can be dangerous.”11 / 13

Haunted Fairmont hotel

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11. Canadian places sure to give you the creeps

  • Axe Point, N.W.T.
  • Hitchcock Bay, Sask.
  • Ghost Pine Creek, Alta.
  • Bone Creek, Sask.
  • Bloodvein, Man.
  • Goblin Bay, Ont
  • L’Île-aux-Fantômes, Que.
  • Dead Creek, N.B.
  • Deadman’s Bay, N.L.
  • Coffin Cove, N.L.
  • Dead  Creek, N.B.
  • Devils Island, N.S.

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Pumpkins in the snow

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12. Suit up!

If you live in Canada, you already know the cardinal rule of choosing a Halloween costume-size up! Snowsuit-clad trick-or-treaters across the Maritimes had to fetch their candy in winter conditions in 2011, after a storm hit the East Coast with high winds and truckloads of snow.13 / 13

David Bowie on car

Photo: 360b/Shutterstock

13. Most popular costumes

1983: Princess Leia from Star Wars, Michael Jackson, David Bowie

1993: Snoop Dogg, Robin Hood, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith

2003: Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Neo from The Matrix franchise, Arnold Schwarzenegger

2013: The Great Gatsby flappers, Rob Ford, Game of Thrones characters

Thank you for reading 🙂

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