Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a celebrated annually on October 31. The holiday tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.

All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” which were public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.

Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country. In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.

Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.

Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague some celebrations in many communities during this time.

By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.

Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

Speaking of commercial success, scary Halloween movies have a long history of being box office hits. Classic Halloween movies include the “Halloween” franchise, based on the 1978 original film directed by John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tony Moran. In “Halloween,” a young boy named Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old sister and is committed to jail, only to escape as a teen on Halloween night and seek out his old home, and a new target.

Considered a classic horror film down to its spooky soundtrack, it inspired 11 other films in the franchise and other “slasher films” like “Scream,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13.” More family-friendly Halloween movies include “Hocus Pocus,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

The American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.

The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling,” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry.

On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.

On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.

Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.

We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred. it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday – with luck, by next Halloween – be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.

Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry. At others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle. Of course, whether we’re asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the goodwill of the very same “spirits” whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly.

‘Ghost Kitchens’ Ahead

No, we’re not talking about cooking something up for Halloween. And we’re not referring to a seance to be held around grandma’s kitchen table. This about the future of fast foods.

Wendy’s recently became the latest fast-food chain to mention delivery-centric locations without dining rooms or takeout, commonly called ghost kitchens or dark kitchens.

Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s chief development officer, said dark kitchens will be a significant part of the chain’s expansion strategy. Pringle said the chain planned to open two dark kitchens in the U.S. by the end of the year, having already utilized the design internationally.

Wendy’s plans to use dark kitchens in high-delivery areas, as well as in regions where the chain has not yet opened locations due to high real estate costs or other restraints. Wendy’s isn’t alone in turning to ghost kitchens to boost delivery sales without making massive investments.

Chains including The Halal Guys, Sweetgreen, and Chick-fil-A have partnered with leading ghost-kitchen brand Kitchen United to offer delivery out of a shared commercial kitchen. Kitchen United plans to enter the New York City market as part of its relationship with RXR Realty. The company has 13 more locations in the pipeline, with plans to have eight kitchens open by the end of the year. It aims to ultimately open 400 locations over the next four years.

The ghost kitchen craze is being driven by the explosion of delivery options in fast food. UberEats, Postmates, GrubHub and other third-party delivery companies are partnering with chains, many of which are offering delivery for the first time. Food delivery is set to become a $75.9 billion business by 2022, according to a 2018 Cowen & Co. report. That’s more than triple the $23.2 billion in delivery sales that were done in 2011.

As delivery becomes a larger portion of chains’ sales, delivery-centric locations are likely to make up a greater number of fast-food shops around the US. The concept of what a fast-food location looks like is fundamentally transforming – and ghost kitchens are set to play a major role.

Despite Shoplifting, Stores Love Self-Checkout

With self-checkout machines suddenly everywhere you may be wondering…don’t shoppers just steal stuff?

Yes, they do. But, retail industry experts say that for many stores the machines are worth the hassle. Indeed, shops ranging from superstores like Target and Walmart to convenience chain CVS to local mom-and-pop groceries have all been adding machines. One recent study suggested globally, self-checkout could continue to grow 10% a year for the next five years.

So what gives? While shoppers may love or hate self-checkout, for stores it often comes down to one thing: Machines mean fewer cashiers, and that can translate to big savings, even if it encourages some shoppers to take the sticky fingers discount.

Shoplifting, or “shrinkage,” as the retail industry calls it, has long bedeviled store owners. Checkout machines are making it worse. Theft accounts for nearly 4% of inventory for retailers with self-checkout, compared to just 1.5% for traditional checkout, according to a report from the U.K.’s University of Leicester.
What’s more, in a recent review of shoplifting offenders, 72% said that self-checkout made theft easy to very easy; only 8% answered it made shoplifting more difficult, according to the Loss Prevention Council, a trade association.

In some instances, retailers are finding higher sales in addition to higher loses with self-checkout, says Read Hayes, a criminologist at the University of Florida and head of the Loss Prevention Council. Still, most are willing to take the chance of greater losses. By switching to self-checkout, “the convenience and cost to sell is much lower,” says Hayes.

A self-checkout setup with four machines costs $125,000 versus just $1,500 for four traditional registers, according to estimates from M.I.T. But with only one person needed to man the self-checkout aisle compared to four at the registers, the cost savings can quickly add up, say experts.

Sales clerks earn $11.70 an hour on average, or just over $24,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, while a typical self-checkout set-up costs store owners about $149,000 in the first year – it costs only about $24,000 a year after that, compared to $96,000 year-in, year-out for a more traditional arrangement.

“When companies are using (self-checkouts) to eliminate jobs, they feel more justified,” says Christopher Andrews, assistant professor of sociology at Drew University who studies self-service checkout.
To be sure, not every retailer is on the bandwagon. A few, like grocery PCC Community Markets in Washington state have installed machines only to yank them. “A kiosk doesn’t create community or connections,” marketing vice president Heather Snavely said.

It’s worth noting that some stores and retail industry advocates claim self-checkout doesn’t necessarily mean cashier jobs are eliminated, since employees can be re-assigned to help shoppers in store aisles.
Of course, ultimately most retailers will want it both ways – as few cashiers and as little shrinkage as possible.

Ready, Set, Shop

It’s time to think about holiday shopping. You don’t get caught at the last minute, unable to find that must-have toy on your child’s wish list. To help you get going, here are some highlights from Walmart’s list of the hottest toys of 2019 and some other items that seem headed to the top of the wish lists..

Walmart’s Top Rated by Kids toy list this year includes 48 toys, more than in previous years, and a new featured trend: gaming!

Famous Friends: Inspired by the make-believe adventures of their favorite famous characters, kids are bringing their furry friends, heroes and role models into playtime. Toys based on this year’s hottest cinema and TV shows are inspiring kids to reenact the action from the big and small screens and create their own adventures.

Here are a few of the toys chosen in this trend:
6V Plush Simba
Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak
Paw Patrol Mighty Pups Super Paws Lookout Tower

Unboxing Toys: The thrill of surprise toys continues to excite kids. Adding an extra layer of fun, this year’s unboxing toys are more than just collecting the most sought-after items – they inspire kids to find new ways to play with their toys and create unique adventures based on their interests. This trend includes toys like:
LOL Surprise 2-N-1 Glamper
Tic Tac Toy XOXO Friends Multipack
What’s In My Purse – Doll Purse

Interactive Toys: Kids love toys that respond while playing. From toys that talk, hug, dance and change color, these toys engage the imagination and creativity of kids as they express their personalities through play. This year’s interactive toys include the following show-stoppers:
Build A Bear Workshop Stuffing Station Value Box
Juno The Baby Elephant
NASCAR Adventure Force Crash Racers

Outdoor Fun: The desire to play in the great outdoors is big for kids this year, and they are looking to roll up to their playdates in style. Whether they’re driving, sliding, scooting or hovering, kids are finding new ways to get around and play outside. Here are a few of the outdoor toys for this year:
24V Real Tree UTV
Hover-1 Hoverboard and Kart Combo
Hover-1 Transport Scooter

Aspirational Play: Whether preparing to take flight, go glamping, own a pet or cook a gourmet meal, there are no limits to creativity and no boundaries on what kids can be when playing NASCAR Adventure Force Crash Racersys. These are just a few of the toys inspiring kids this holiday season:
Barbie Dreamplane
Kindi Kids Doll
Scruff-A-Luv My Real Rescue

Gaming: Kids who are looking to get in on the action want consoles and accessories to guarantee a superior gaming experience. The toys that will help kids step up their game include:
Cynosa Chroma Keyboard
HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop
Kraken Grn 2019

The Walmart list is just a warm-up. Here are some additional top rated toys:

Blume Dolls. If the people at Good Housekeeping know anything about on-trend toys for the holidays – and they do – — then you can bet kids will be asking for Blume dolls this year. Just add a few drops of water to the colorful flower pot and watch a doll with fabulous hair bloom from the “soil.” Each figure comes with a surprise sidekick, too.

Kindi Kids. These doe-eyed dolls hit stores in August, just in time for kindergarten to begin. In the Kindi Kid world, every day is a new opportunity to learn, play and make new friends. Dinatina, Jessicake, Marsha Mello and Peppa-Mint each come with two unique “snack time” treats that your youngster can use to interact with the toy.

L.O.L. Surprise 2-in-1 Glamper. L.O.L. Surprise more or less invented the “unboxing” gift in 2016 and their trinket-stuffed suitcases, collectible figures and ephemera have been at the top of holiday must-have lists every year since. This turquoise traveler lets your youngster’s L.O.L. Surprise O.M.G. fashion doll hit the road in style. Like every one of their toys, this one comes with 55 toys to unbox, including a doll that’s unique to this set.

Adventure Force NASCAR Crash Racers Track. Racing cars and tracks have been entertaining kids (and adults) for decades. Give your NASCAR racers a quick charge, then let them loose on the figure-eight track to zip around, narrowly avoiding each other in the Crash Zone. But if disaster strikes, no worries. The racers are designed to break apart and be reassembled in seconds to keep the racing excitement going.

Ryan’s World Toys Surprise Mystery Giant Egg. You may not know who Ryan is, but your kids probably do if they watch YouTube or Nick Jr. And if they love watching him, you can bet one of these will end up on the 2019 holiday wish list. Past versions of these plastic eggs have contained collectible action figures, play slime and putty, and a spaceship with blinking lights and sound effects. There’s currently a backlog of up to 90 days for Series 3 eggs, the latest in this line of mystery toys, so don’t wait too long to order.

Disney ‘The Lion King’ Mighty Roar Simba Interactive Plush Toy. You can bet this blockbuster will be spawning a whole pride of merchandise. This interactive Simba plush is packed with 100 different actions from nose to tail. Stroke his back and hear him purr, roar at him and listen to him roar back. Simba has more than 100 different responses and actions in his memory banks, including that memorable catchphrase of his: “Slimy, yet satisfying.”

Disney ‘The Lion King’ 6V Plush Ride-On Toy. Toddlers up to 45 pounds can hop on Simba and cruise around the house, king or queen of all they see. Simba comes programmed with a number of sounds that your youngster can trigger as they prowl, as well as a charger to keep the battery going, and best of all it comes fully assembled!

Dreamworks Dragons Hatching Toothless Interactive Baby Dragon. If your youngster is a fan of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movie series and they went crazy over last year’s Hatchimals craze at holiday time, then add this to your shopping list this year. Kids can “hatch” and raise their very own Toothless the Dragon.

WowWee Fingerlings Light Up Narwhal. The Fingerlings family of pint-sized robotic toys continues to sprout new branches of the family tree, including this family of four pastel-colored whales. Nelly, Nikki, Nori and Rachel respond to sounds and touches by waving their tails, blinking their big eyes and lighting up their horns to reflect their mood.

Sphero Specdrums Rings. Sphero is a pioneer in the world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) toys for older kids, and they continue to devise cool new ways to learn while having fun. Tap into your inner musician with these rings, which react to different colors by creating beats, loops and other instrument emulators. Use the app to transform those fragments into tunes you can play on your smartphone, or use any Bluetooth MIDI-based mixing equipment like Garage Band to create a mini-masterpiece.

Barbie 2019 Holiday Doll. Barbie may be eligible for the senior discount at Denny’s, but as far as holiday gifts go, she is timeless. This limited-edition doll comes decked out in a festive peppermint-twist gown that would look at home at any chic Christmas soiree this season, and she’s available in one of three styles.

Owleez. Owleez wowed the crowd at the annual New York Toy Fair in February and has had toy nerds salivating ever since. This interactive avian teaches kids how to nurture a baby owl, which you must feed, rock to sleep and even teach to fly. The payoff? When Owleez is ready, he’s programmed to leave the nest and hover in the air.

Suburbs See Rise of ‘Hipsturbia’

“Hipsturbia” is one of the emerging trends in real estate, according to a report by the Urban Land Institute. The term refers to the trend of suburbs that are creating their own versions of downtowns featuring vibrant “live/work/play” districts. More suburbs are taking a chance on these mixed-use, walkable developments, researchers note in the “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” report.

“Many of these ‘cool’ suburbs are associated with metro areas having vibrant downtowns, illustrating the falsity of a dichotomy that pits central cities against ring communities,” the researchers note.

In Omaha, it’s not the suburbs, but neighborhood districts that are seeing the trend – NoDo, Benson, the Blackstone district, the Old Market and Aksarben Village are examples. Another such area is just being built just west of Boys Town.

The communities around Silicon Valley between San Francisco and San Jose are evolving into hipsturbia centers. The report calls out Santa Clara, Calif., that is developing 240 acres with offices, hotels, serviced apartments and residences, along with open space for recreation. “The presence of Stanford University is a massive contributor to a hipsturbia environment,” researchers note. “A constant supply of young adults is the lifeblood of hipsturbias.”

The trend can also be seen playing out in Tempe, Ariz., near Arizona State University. Its transit access and cluster of coffee shops, sit-down restaurants, brewpubs, retail and entertainment are reinventing the area. Other areas, like Evanston, Ill. – just outside of Chicago and home to Northwestern University – as well as Atlanta suburbs of Decatur and Alpharetta, are also vying to become a “cool suburb,” researchers note.

“As more and more suburbs – not all, but those with the right recipe – attract a critical mass of ‘hip’ residents, their success will become increasingly visible,” researchers note. “This will multiple the number of imitators, keeping the trend going.” The live/work/play model could revive suburbs and make them an attractive place for millennials and younger adults to settle down, researchers say.