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  • The modern holiday of Halloween has its origins in the ancient Gaelic festival known as Samhain (pronounced /ˈsË aunʲ/ from the Old Irish samain). The Festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is erroneously[3] regarded as 'The Celtic New Year'.[2] Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The Ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, where the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.[4][5] When the Romans occupied Celtic territory, several Roman traditions were also incorporated into the festivals. Feralia, a day celebrated in late October by the Romans for the passing of the dead as well as a festival which celebrated the Roman Goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit were incorporated into the celebrations. The symbol of Pomona was an apple, which is a proposed origin for the tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.[6] Halloween did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted even the observance of Christmas prior to the 1800s. American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays.[15] The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) finally brought the holiday to the United States. Scottish emigration from the British Isles, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country. Scottish-American and Irish-American societies held dinners and balls that celebrated their heritages, with perhaps a recitation of Robert Burns' poem "Halloween" or a telling of Irish legends, much as Columbus Day celebrations were more about Italian-American heritage than Columbus per se. Home parties would center around children's activities, such as bobbing for apples, and various divination games often concerning future romance. Not surprisingly, pranks and mischief were common as well. The commercialization of Halloween in the United States did not start until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween postcards (featuring hundreds of designs) which were most popular between 1905 and 1915.[16] Dennison Manufacturing Company, which published its first Hallowe'en catalog in 1909, and the Beistle Company were pioneers in commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper items.[17][18] German manufacturers specialised in Halloween figurines that were exported to the United States in the period between the two world wars. There is little primary documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween in the United States or elsewhere, prior to 1900.[19] Mass-produced Halloween costumes did not appear in stores until the 1930s, and trick-or-treating did not become a fixture of the holiday until the 1950s. In the United States, Halloween has become the sixth most profitable holiday (after Christmas, Mother's Day, Valentines Day, Easter, and Father's Day).[20] In the 1990s, many manufacturers began producing a larger variety of Halloween yard decorations; prior to this a majority of decorations were homemade. Some of the most popular yard decorations are jack-o'-lanterns, scarecrows, witches, orange and purple string lights, inflatable decorations (such as spiders, pumpkins, mummies and vampires), and animatronic window and door decorations. Other popular decorations are foam tombstones and gargoyles. Halloween is now the United States' second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating; the sale of candy and costumes are also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular Halloween costume themes for adults are, in order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat and clown.[21] On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest October 31 hosting many costume parties. Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is one of the largest and most elaborate Halloween events in the world. The month-long event takes place at Universal Studios theme parks in Florida and Hollywood. The National Confectioners Association reported, in 2005, that 80 percent of American adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters,[22] and that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.[23] Anoka, Minnesota, the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World", celebrates the holiday with a large civic parade and several other city-wide events. Salem, Massachusetts, also has laid claim to the "Halloween Capital" title, while trying to dissociate itself from its history of persecuting witchcraft. At the same time, however, the city does see a great deal of tourism surrounding the Salem witch trials, especially around Halloween. In the 1990s, the city added an official "Haunted Happenings" celebration to the October tourist season.. Nearby Keene, New Hampshire, hosts the annual Pumpkin Fest each October which previously held the record for having the greatest number of lit jack-o'-lanterns at once. (Boston, Massachusetts holds the record as of October 2006). Rutland, Vermont has hosted the annual Rutland Halloween Parade since 1960. Tom Fagan, a local comic book fan, is credited with having a hand in the parade's early development and superhero theme. In the early 1970s, the Rutland Halloween Parade achieved a degree of fame when it was used as the setting of a number of superhero comic books, including Batman #237, Justice League of America #103, Amazing Adventures #16 and The Mighty Thor #207.New York City hosts the United States' largest Halloween celebration, known as The Village Halloween Parade. Started by Greenwich Village mask maker Ralph Lee in 1973, the evening parade now attracts over two million spectators and participants, as well as roughly four million television viewers annually. It is the largest participatory parade in the country if not the world, encouraging spectators to march in the parade as well. In many towns and cities, trick-or-treaters are welcomed by lit porch lights and jack-o'-lanterns. In some large and/or crimeridden areas, however, trick-or-treating is discouraged, or refocused to staged trick-or-treating events within nearby shopping malls, in order to prevent potential acts of violence against trick-or-treaters. Even where crime is not an issue, many American towns have designated specific hours for trick-or-treating, e.g., 5-7 pm or 5-8 pm, to discourage late-night trick-or-treating. Those living in the country may hold Halloween parties, often with bonfires, with the celebrants passing between them. The parties usually involve traditional games (like snipe hunting, bobbing for apples, or searching for candy in a similar manner to Easter egg hunting), haunted hayrides (often accompanied by scary stories, and costumed people hiding in the dark to jump out and scare the riders), and treats (usually a bag of candy and/or homemade treats). Scary movies may also be viewed. Normally, the children are picked up by their parents at predetermined times. However, it is not uncommon for such parties to include sleepovers. Trick-or-treating may often end by early evening, but the nightlife thrives in many urban areas. Halloween costume parties provide an opportunity for adults to gather and socialize. Urban bars are frequented by people wearing Halloween masks and risqué costumes. Many bars and restaurants hold costume contests to attract customers to their establishments. Haunted houses are also popular in some areas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

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