Halloween 2011: 161 million people make one big scary holiday
A record-breaking 161 million people plan on celebrating Halloween in 2011, the highest in the National Retail Federation (NRF)'s nine years of surveying Americans about their Halloween habits.
Seven in 10 Americans, or 68.6 percent, plan to celebrate Halloween, up from 63.8 percent last year, according to NRF.
The average person will spend $72.31 on decorations, costumes, and candy, which is up from $66.28 last year. Total expenditures for the holiday should reach $6.86 billion, an increase from $5.8 billion in 2010.
"Eager to shake off the summer heat and forget about the economy for a few days, Americans are looking forward to having some fun this Halloween," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
Costumes consume the biggest part of the United States' Halloween dollars ($26.52 per person), followed closely by candy and decorations.
Halloween's origins date back more than 2,000 years. On what we consider November 1, Europe's Celtic peoples celebrated their New Year's Day, called Samhain (SAH-win).
On Samhain eve—what we know as Halloween—spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, and other creatures were also said to be abroad.
In addition to sacrificing animals to the gods and gathering around bonfires, Celts often wore costumes—probably animal skins—to confuse spirits, perhaps to avoid being possessed, according to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress.
In an early form of trick-or-treating, Celts costumed as spirits are believed to have gone from house to house engaging in silly acts in exchange for food and drink—a practice inspired perhaps by an earlier custom of leaving food and drink outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings.
Samhain was later transformed as Christian leaders co-opted pagan holidays. In the seventh century Pope Boniface IV decreed November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows' Day.
European immigrants brought Halloween to the United States, and the celebration really gathered steam in the 1800s, when Irish-American immigration exploded.