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Oh, how I love Halloween — from candy corn, to carving pumpkins, to decorating the house and bushes with fake cotton cobwebs, to sitting on my front step with 10 bags of assorted candies waiting for the neighborhood children to run up and say, "Trick or Treat" — Halloween is so much fun.  Personally, I love this time of year; the leaves start changing color and begin falling from the trees, the air begins to get cooler; comfy sweatshirts replace tank tops, and loafers replace flip flops.  Excitement is in the air as the Holiday season starts off with Halloween festivities. 

Around this time of year Craft stores become overcrowded with consumers searching to find new and improved ways to deck their homes out for Fall and Halloween.  Fall festivals at local farms start popping up everywhere where picking out just the right pumpkin for each family member has become a yearly tradition.  Hay rides and hay mazes, pumpkin patches and warm apple cider, as well as apple picking and scarecrow stuffing become aplenty. 

And let’s not forget the most important part of Halloween —the costumes! Each year kids of all ages choose their costumes with extreme concentration — meticulously deciding what they are more "into" this year:  Power Ranges or Batman, Thomas the Tank Engine or Lighting McQueen; a Ballerina or Barbie; Snow White or Cinderella — the possibilities are endless. 

So where did traditions like trick or treating and dressing up in costumes come from?  What is Halloween really about?  How did it originate and how did our customs come about and bring us to the holiday that we celebrate today …better yet…what are we celebrating?  Spirits?  Ghosts and Goblins?  Black Cats?  Here’s a brief history of Halloween along with some fun facts, recipes, and events going on around town. Enjoy!


Halloween History

Let’s start out by clearing up a bit of folklore about Halloween —Halloween is not a holiday based on evil practices.  The holiday grew from the Celts traditions and celebrations relating to their New Year and over time mixed with Catholic traditions and celebrations ultimately becoming the holiday we celebrate today.  Here’s the story:

The word "Halloween" comes from "All Hollows Day" or "All Saints Day" and is actually a Catholic holiday honoring the Saints.  The holiday’s origins date back to the 5th Century when the holiday was called Samhain, pronounced "sow-en," which is the Celtic New Year. 

Legend says that on the eve of Samhain, the spirits from the past year will come back searching for living bodies to possess for the coming year — this came from the Celts belief in the afterlife.  They believed that during this time spirits lived among the living.  Each October 31st, families would put out the fires in their hearths in order to make their homes unattractive to the spirits hoping they would pass by.  In fact, people often dressed up in costumes as a way of scaring off the spirits.
Later in history, Halloween was linked to other holidays that took place in the Fall. For example, the Romans celebrated a festival known as Pomona Day, named after their goddess of fruits and gardens.  Pomona Day was celebrated around the 1st of November.  Over time, the Samhain Festival and the Roman Pomona Day were joined into one day, thus becoming one major fall holiday.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, people didn’t forget their customs and traditions.  Every year, on the eve of October 31st people celebrated a mixture of holidays now known as Halloween (Samhain + Pomona Day) and over time the practices changed and became more ritualized.  As belief in the spirit world diminished, the practice of dressing in costumes took a more traditional role.
In the 1840’s, Halloween was brought to America by Irish immigrants.  The Halloween we celebrate today includes all of influences from both Pomona Day and Samhain.

Fun Facts

  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 418 pounds.
  • Pumpkins are a fruit and a gourd.
  • Pumpkins have been grown in North America for 5,000 years.  They only grow in the western hemisphere.
  • In 1584, Jacques Cartier found what he called "gros melons" in the St. Lawrence region of North America.  The name was translated into English as "pompions," which then became pumpkin.
  • Pumpkins are high in fiber and low in calories, fat, and sodium. They are a good source of vitamin A, B, potassium, protein, and iron.
  • The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1, 337 pounds.  It was grown by Charles Houghton of New Boston, New Hampshire.
  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 to 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
  • The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Stingy Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more abundant than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

  • The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.
  • The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated with a ninth-century European custom called "souling." On November 2nd, All Souls Day, Christians would go from village to village begging for "soul cakes," which were made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes one could receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors bearing the cakes.  Back in these days, it was widely believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could quicken a soul's passage to heaven.
  • Black cats:  The superstition surrounding black cats originates from Greek mythology.  A Greek woman named Galenthias was turned into a cat and became a priestess at the temple of Hecate, the "Dark Mother," who is sometimes known as the Mother of Witchcraft.  

In the 12th and 13th centuries, many people believed witches could turn themselves into black cats at times. During the witch-burning era of the 17th century, witches' cats were put into baskets and burned alongside the witches.
Even now, many people will go out of there way to avoid a black cat because they are seen as bad luck.  However, in countries like England, it’s a sign of good luck if a black cat crosses your path.
(Source: The History Channel)

Fun Fact:  According to the JellyBelly Candy Corporation, Candy Corn has 3.57 calories per kernel and Halloween accounts for 75% of the annual candy corn production.

More than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year. That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces — enough to circle the moon nearly 4 times if laid end to end.


Pumpkin Seeds


  • 4-1/4 cups raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1. Rinse pumpkin seeds in water until pulp and strings are washed off, then drain.
2. In a medium mixing bowl combine pumpkin seeds, cooking oil, and salt. Spread mixture onto a waxed-paper-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Let stand for 24 to 48 hours or until dry, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove waxed paper from baking pan. Toast seeds in a 325 degree F oven for 40 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drain seeds on paper towels. Makes 16 (1/4-cup) servings.

Haunted Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows

  • 2 packages plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 cup cold water, divided
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups black and orange colored sugar

Decorative Icing

  • 1 box (1 lb.) confectioners' sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder (Wilton) or 3 large egg whites

1. Make Homemade Marshmallows: Sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup of the cold water. Let stand 10 minutes until softened; set aside.
2. Bring granulated sugar and remaining 1/3 cup water to boil in small covered saucepan. Uncover; boil 5 minutes. Pour into large bowl of standing mixer. Add corn syrup and gelatin; stir until dissolved. Beat at medium speed to stiff peaks, 10 to 20 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
3. Dot corners of a jelly-roll pan with marshmallow; line with waxed paper. Spread remaining marshmallow into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle lightly with confectioners' sugar; let stand until firm.
4. Spread colored sugar on two separate plates. Cut out shapes from marshmallow with 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter. Remove cutouts from pan with metal spatula; coat in colored sugar. Transfer to waxed paper. Rinse cookie cutter with water. Repeat process.
5. Make Decorative Icing: Combine all icing ingredients in large bowl. (If using egg whites, substitute 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar for the meringue powder and omit the cold water.) Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until smooth. Increase speed to high and beat 5 minutes until thick (adding up to 1 tablespoon more cold water for piping consistency, if necessary). Store in tightly covered containers up to 3 days. Makes 2-3/4 cups.
6. Decorate marshmallows with Decorative Icing as desired. Makes 24 marshmallows.

Haunting Hot Chocolate


  • 1 medium orange
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup vanilla-flavored baking pieces or vanilla-flavored candy coating
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Ground nutmeg (optional)
  • Purchased marshmallow ghosts

1. Remove peel of orange with vegetable peeler; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup of the milk, the vanilla-flavored baking pieces, orange peel, and nutmeg; whisk over low heat until baking pieces are melted. Remove orange peel. Whisk in remaining milk and heat through. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
3. Serve warm in mugs. Add a marshmallow ghost, dollop with whipped cream, and sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired. Makes five 6-ounce servings.


Cider Mulled Punch

2 small eating apples, peeled, cored, chopped
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick (4")
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 small orange, juiced
1 gallon Cider

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove cloves and cinnamon stick and serve warm. Makes: 6 servings

Fall Festivals

Irvine Nature Center
8400 Greenspring Ave.Stevenson, Maryland21153  Phone:  410 484- 2413

Irvine’s annual PumpkinFest is a wonderful family fun day and a celebration of community. Every October hundreds of families gather year after year for a day of music, food, crafts, and much more. There’s plenty to do, including:

  • Make a scarecrow
  • Ride a pony
  • Create sand art
  • Listen to some great acoustic music
  • Catch a puppet show
  • Make a craft, such as a corn-husk doll or braided bookmark
  • Enjoy story time by the pond
  • Meet some of Irvine’s resident animals
  • Pet an alpaca
  • Eat some great food, from gyros to baked goods
  • Decorate a pumpkin
  • Take a nature walk with a naturalist (kids love this)
  • See a fire-making demonstration
  • Plus much more!

For more information about PumpkinFest contact Patricia Caya, Communications and Events Coordinator, at 410-484-2413 ext. 25.

Spring Meadow Farm
15513 Hanover Pike, Upperco, Maryland  21155N.W.BaltimoreCounty 
Phone: 410-239-8505 (Open Monday thru Sunday – call for times)

  • Apple Festival and Apple Dessert ContestOctober - 1pm - 5pm

There will be 3 prizes given awarded each of which is $100.00 gift certificate for use at Spring Meadow Farms.  You must get your BEST apple dessert in by 2:30. The contest begins at 3:00. We will be offering apple sundaes, apple ice cream, apple jam, and much more. 

  • Spring Meadow Farms — Fall Harvest Festival begins the weekend of Sept. 30 & Oct. 1 and runs every weekend in October:  7 & 8; 14 & 15; 21 & 22; 28 & 29.  The farm is owned by The Dabkowski Family and they invite you to come and enjoy a fun day out with your family.
  • Take a tractor driven hayride and enjoy a sunny ride looking over the market and greenhouse.
  • Pumpkin picking
  • Pony rides
  • Haunted house (by Little Tykes)
  • Blow up farm train
  • Make a scarecrow
  • Hot and cold cider
  • Straw maze
  • Peddle tractors
  • Ice cream

Market Hours are 9am-7pm. Fall Harvest Festival and Hayrides are every weekend in October.

Baugher’s Orchard & Farm
1236 Baugher Road, Westminster, Maryland21158 Phone: 410-848-5541
(PYO Hotline) 410-857-0111 Fax: 410-876-5642 (Open: 8am-6pm everyday)

This 100 year old farm offers a fun family day on weekends in October from 10am -5pm
And also open Friday, October 20th!

  • Hayrides to the pumpkin patch: $1 per person
  • Pick your own pumpkins and gourds: .35/lb. (Sat. & Sun. only)
  • Petting zoo:  Free!
  • Pony rides:  $3 - $5
  • Scarecrow making:  $10
  • Face painting (noon to 5 pm):  $1
  • Playground is free and fun

Food is available AND Baugher’s offers delicious kettle corn too!

November through December 24th, Baugher’s invites you to visit and enjoy:

  • Fresh, crisp apples and pears.
  • Homemade apple butter, apple sauce and jams
  • Fresh apple cider
  • Fresh pies
  • Fancy gift packs of apples and jams available for shipping to far away friends and relatives as well as fancy fruit baskets make great gifts.


Weber's Cider Mill Farm
2526 Proctor Lane, Baltimore. 410-668-4488 or
Market open daily 9 am to 8 pm, with apple picking Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to
5 pm until the supply runs out, around the end of September or early October.

  • Pick Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Jonathan from dwarf trees at this small suburban orchard.
  • The 28th annual Johnny Appleseed Festival: Sept. 24 and 25 from 11 am to 5 pm — features crafts, pit beef, children's games and live bluegrass.  It’s free, but games require fees. Scarecrow workshops, $15 ($1 discount if you bring a shirt, $1.50 discount if you provide pants), all materials provided.
  • Additional fall activities take place on weekends during October. The farm has picnic tables, pumpkins, a seasonal produce market, bakery, ice-cream parlor and gift shop.


Fall Festivals and Farms

In Maryland

Agricultural History Farm Park
18400 Muncaster Road, Derwood, Maryland (301) 924-4141
Only held two days a year (October 7 & 8, 2006), the Harvest Festival will open
11 am to 4 pm.  This Montgomery County facility hosts one of the largest festivals in the area with activities including: hayrides, scarecrow making, farm demonstrations, crafts, hay maze, live entertainment and much more.

Butler's Orchard
22200 Davis Mill Road, Germantown, Maryland (301) 972-3299
Butler’s Orchard’s annual Pumpkin Festival is held weekends throughout October, 10 am to 5 pm. Choose the perfect pumpkin; take a hayride; explore a hay maze; and enjoy crafts, food, and family activities.

Homestead Farm
15600 Sugarland Road, Poolesville, Maryland (301) 977-3761
The Harvest Festival is held weekends through October from 10 am to 5 pm. Enjoy hayrides, apple and pumpkin picking, as well as finding your way through the hay maze.

Larriland Farms
2415 Woodbine Road, Woodbine, Maryland (301) 854-6110
Annual Pumpkin Festival is held weekends throughout October. Pick a pumpkin; take a hayride; and explore a hay maze and more.

Sharp's at Waterford Farm
4003 Jennings Chapel Road, Brookeville, Maryland (301) 854-6275
This Fall festival held each weekend from mid-September to mid-November. Activities include pumpkin picking, corn mazes, hayrides, campfires, feeding animals, and more.

Summers Farm
5614 Butterfly Lane, Frederick, Maryland (301) 620-9316
Pumpkinland Festival is open 10 am - 5 pm every weekend in October and Columbus Day. Visit the farm animal barnyard, corn maze, giant slides, straw mountain, and American Indian Teepee and much more.

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch
6521 Holter Rd., Middletown, Maryland (301) 371-6874
Open daily September 23 - October 31st  10 am - 6 pm.  Pick your own pumpkins, explore a fun corn maze, ride in the hay wagons, meet animals in the petting zoo, take a pony ride, and get your face painted. 


In Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

Leesburg Animal Park
19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg, Virginia (703) 433-0002
Pumpkinville is open everyday from Sep. 23 thru Nov. 6th  9 am until 6 pm. This 3-acre farm play area includes an Indian teepee, giant slides, a hay maze, unlimited hayrides, straw mountains, tot maze, rope swings, tractors to climb on, a large inflated fire truck slide, moon bounces, and much more.

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Family Days
On October 21 – 22nd, from 9 am to 5 pm, visit George Washington's pioneer estate and create your own cornhusk dolls, take a wagon ride, or find your way through a hay maze.

Burke Nursery and Garden Center
9401 Burke Road, Burke, Virginia (703) 323-1188
The 10th Annual Fall Festival and Pumpkin Playground runs daily from 9 am to 9 pm September 29th through October 31st.  This festival includes pirate and western-themed activities, Native American storytellers, slides, tumbling tubes, rope swings, A Monster Truck, mechanical rides, farm animals, clowns, magicians, musicians, Wobble Wagon rides and much more.

Cox Farms
15621 Braddock Road, Centreville, Virginia (703) 830-4121
Cox Farm Fall festival is located on a 117-acre farm and is open daily from 10 am to
6 pm from September 23rd through November 5, 2006. Activities include hayrides, slides, rope swings, farm animal feeding and much more.

Sky Meadows State Park
11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, Virginia (540) 592-3556
One of the largest pumpkin patches in Northern Virginia. Activities include: Picking  pumpkins, seeing farm animals and baby calves, taking pony rides, enjoying live music, hiking, and much more. Open Wednesday through Sunday 9 am to 5 pm through October.


Pumpkin Picking Locations

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore — Saturday, October 21, 2006 and Sunday, October 22, 2006 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  The 21st annual Halloween celebration includes: entertainment, games, Toys R' US costume contest, haunted hay tides, hay maze, magicians, jugglers, zoo train, pie eating contest for adults, FREE trick-or-treating.

Dutch Wonderland
2249 Lincoln Highway East; Lancaster, PA 17602. Guest Services at toll free 1-866-FUNatDW.  Halloween Hauntings: October 13 – 30, 2006, Halloween Costume Contests: Registration: 5 to 6:30 PM in the Castle Courtyard; Costume Parade: 7:15 pm starting at the Gingerbread House; Contest Begins: 7:30 pm – chance to win great prizes

Fright Fest at Six Flags America
Enjoy the spooky attractions and shows at the Washington, DC Area’s largest Halloween Celebration. Fright Fest at Six Flags America is open every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday through October 29, 2006. Operating hours are: Friday: 5-10 p. m., Saturdays and Sundays: 12 noon - 10 pm. Closed to the public Halloween Night, October 31st.

Boo at the Zoo
Visit bats, spiders, owls, and other animals at the zoo while trick-or-treating at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Enjoy animal encounters, keeper talks, festive decorations, and haunted trails at the annual National Zoo’s Halloween celebration, "Boo at the Zoo" from 5:30-8:30 pm on October 27 - 29, 2006. Costumed volunteers will hand out candy at more than 40 treat stations.

Other Fun Stuff for Halloween

Markoff’s Haunted Forest
Rated the #1 Halloween attraction by Channel 7 (ABC), visit Markoff’s Haunted Forest in Dickerson, Maryland.  

Beall-Dawson House
Meet the ghosts of Rockville's past during a haunted storytelling hour. Reservations are required. Call (301) 340-2825. Event not recommended for children under 9 years old.

Alexandria Ghost and Graveyard Tours
Take this cool walking tour of Old Town Alexandria and see the most haunted buildings in town. Tours depart at the southeast corner of King & Fairfax Streets. Reservations are recommended. Call (703) 519-1749.

Haunted Train Rides at Wheaton Regional Park
Thursday-Sunday, October 12-29, 2006, 6-9 p.m. Come and experience the scary surprises that await you in a haunted forest in Wheaton, Maryland.

Other Things to Remember on Halloween

Local Fire Department
Many local volunteer fire departments sell pumpkins. Your donation will help your community. Check your local volunteer fire departments this Halloween!

Don’t forget one of this season’s most delicious liquid treats: A Pumpkin Latte from Starbucks. This seasonal sip-worthy beverage is worth waiting for each year. Try it – you won’t be disappointed.


As always have a wonderful and SAFE holiday!

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