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Halloween's Connection to Agriculture

Halloween's Connection to Agriculture

Next Sunday, October 31st, the celebration of Halloween will take place. The familiar sights of costumes, candy, and decorated yards and buildings will be present on the 31st and before. Although we typically associate Halloween items and activities with just the holiday, a lot of the Halloween fun is connected to agriculture.

It is believed that the origins of Halloween began with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain was celebrated on October 31st and November 1st to mark the end of harvest and the beginning of the winter season. The Celts believed that on the night of October 31st ghosts of the dead would return to earth and that Celtic priests had a connection to predicting the future. The Celts would even wear costumes during the celebration. This celebration, which sounds like a much scarier version of certain aspects that are present in our celebration of Halloween today, began as the mark of the end of harvest season. We can be thankful that at the end of our harvest season, Halloween is just celebrated with fun costumes and candy rather than how the Celts would celebrate.

Another aspect of Halloween that is connected to agriculture is pumpkin carving. There is a clear connection to pumpkins being an agricultural product (A large one here in Illinois!), but if you dig deeper into the practice of pumpkin carving, you will learn that turnips, beets, and potatoes were also used! These three items were used to create Jack O’Lanterns before pumpkins were easy to access. The tradition of carving into pumpkins became more common in America when the Irish brought the tradition of carving Jack O’Lanterns over and pumpkins were more available here.

Candy corn was first created to resemble chicken feed. This was at the time when half of Americans worked on the farm. Companies would market agriculture-themed candy to children in farm areas all year round. There were really no sweet varieties of corn so it was seen as just food for animals. So, George Renninger came in with the idea to market the candy as chicken food instead of just corn candy. Candy corn was not viewed as a special holiday candy until the 1950’s, when candy really started to be associated with Halloween. Now, candy corn is a staple fall and Halloween candy.

Outside of candy corn, the products that go into other Halloween candy we eat come from agriculture. Corn, soybeans, spices, grains, nuts, and more from agriculture all go into creating the delicious candy we enjoy on Halloween. Specifically, Snickers have a special tie to the agriculture industry. The candy bar began on a farm in Tennessee and was named after the family’s favorite horse. Now, Snickers are a worldwide treat, and it takes a lot of ingredients to supply Snickers bars all around the world. It takes more than 100 tons of peanuts to produce the 15 million Snickers bars that are produced every day. 

Two activities that are common during fall and Halloween time are corn mazes and hay rack rides. Both the corn and hay are grown by farmers (usually locally) and are used to create the fun activities! In our area, Rader Family Farms is a nearby place to enjoy a corn maze! Rader’s also has lots of other family friendly activities. Ackerman Family Farms is located in Morton, IL and also has a corn maze, pumpkins, and fun fall activities to offer. Gail’s Pumpkin Patch is located in Beason, IL, and although they do not have a corn maze, they have farm animals, pumpkins, and activities to offer. All three of these places are a way to experience a direct connection to agriculture during this time of the year.

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