It’s almost time for Halloween! Though not a federal holiday, Halloween is something that is certainly acknowledged and celebrated by many people around the country. Once again we can visit our friends at the Library of Congress to find out more information about this slightly convoluted holiday.
According to the good people of the American Folklife Center, Halloween began as a Celtic holiday in pre-Christian Europe. It was celebrated around this time of year and marked the beginning of Winter. The Celts called this festival Samhain and believed that at this time of year, the spirits of the dead were best able to mingle with the living. This was due to the belief that those who had died throughout the year were able to travel to the underworld at this time of year. Not only were ghosts about, but also fairies, demons and any other scary being you could think of.
To read more about Samhain and how it became modern day Halloween, be sure to check out The fantasy and folklore of All Hallows from the American Folklife Center. They also provide a short bibliography on Halloween and similar topics – these aren’t gov docs, mind you, but I’m sure they’re still very good!
Another place to go for some good information is Facts for Features from the Census Bureau. Periodically, the Census Bureau will compile statistical facts about a particular holiday or event. For example, in 2008, there were 1,814 costume rental and formal wear establishments in the United States. In 2009, the average American consumed 24.3 pounds of candy throughout the year.
You may also be interested to know that there’s actually a Halloween Capital of the World. Anoka, Minnesota has been calling itself that since 1937. According to an entry in a 2003 issue of the Congressional Record, in 1920, a group of Anoka businessmen got together to try to figure out a way to deter the “trick” part of “trick or treat.” They came up with the idea of hosting various types of festivities – today there’s a parade, and 5K run and town-wide parties. You can also read more about it in America’s Story from the Library of Congress.
Finally, since this is a holiday that involves candles, flammable costumes and lots of little kids running around after dark, various agencies throughout the Federal government provide safety tips. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a list of tips relating to candy, costumes, pedestrian safety and choosing safe houses to visit. You can also find more food-related tips from the FDA. As always, the CDC provides a wealth of safety tips as well. Visit their Halloween site for information on treats, costumes and staying safe.