Halloween was originally called All Hallows’ Eve – meaning the evening before All Saints’ Day (“Hallow” being an Old English word for saint). All Saints’ Day was created by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century, since by then there were too many saints (or not enough days) to accommodate them all. It originally was held on May 13, but was moved by Pope Gregory in 835 A.D. to November 1 – probably to distract Christians from celebrating Samhain, a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture (generally regarded as ‘The Celtic New Year) on October 31.
It was also a day on which people believed that spirits could cross over into our plane of existence. In fact, the wearing of costumes and masks started as a means to fool those spirits wandering the earth that night.
These days Halloween is big business – the country’s second largest commercial holiday (after Christmas), with Americans spending $6.9 billion dollars annually.
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2007 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, the top costumes for kids this year will be:
The survey says that a third of adults will dress up for Halloween – and apparently there are some fantasies we never outgrow. Three of the top five (and four of the top six) costumes for kids are also on the top list for adults:
- A witch
- A vampire
- A cat
- A princess
- A fairy
Believe it or not, 11% of those who will celebrate Halloween this year – will dress their pet up in some kind of costume. And the favorite pet costumes are:
If you find yourself a bit nervous about the upcoming festivities, you may suffer from Samhainophobia – an abnormal and persistent fear of Halloween. This time of year may also stir up other phobias such as the fear of: cats (ailurophobia), witches (wiccaphobia), ghosts (phasmophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), the dark (nyctophobia), and cemeteries (coimetrophobia).