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Photos: Walmart lists hot toys for 2017

What will kids be asking for this year? Take a look at what Walmart predicts will be the hot toys for 2017.

Photos: Heidi Klum 'thrills' at 18th annual Halloween party

Supermodel Heidi Klum paid tribute to Michael Jackson by wearing an elaborate costume inspired by ‘Thriller’ at her 2017 Halloween party.

Dad's Ben Affleck-inspired Halloween costume sparks outrage from other parents

A Nebraska man sparked backlash after a parent posted a picture of his costume in a Facebook group.

>> See the photo here

According to KETV, the ordeal began when Hugo Mendoza wore a black, hooded robe while holding a duffel bag and a toy gun — the orange cap indicating that it was fake was missing — while attending the Monster Mash Bash with his girlfriend and daughters at Oak View Mall in Omaha. Desirae Anson, who was attending the event with her children, recalled that family members told her “You know, we should probably go,” believing that a shooting was about to take place. A picture Anson later posted of Mendoza in a Facebook group received about 800 reactions and 500 comments.

>> On Rare.us: Married couple who survived the Las Vegas massacre has met a sad end

Mendoza defended himself to KMTV, saying he was simply wearing a costume inspired by “The Town,” a 2010 movie starring Ben Affleck which depicted bank robbers.

"I mean, if it was something bad, why would they sell it? I was there to have a good time with my daughters and my girlfriend. I wasn’t there to scare little kids or make people feel uncomfortable," he said.

Anson held her ground, saying that she couldn’t tell if the gun was real or fake. Others in attendance, including Amber Hall, also voiced discomfort as the scene reminded them of the Van Maur shooting, which occurred at Westroads Mall in 2007.

>> Read more trending news

“In 2007, I was going through the Omaha Police Department recruit academy and, as part of that, we watched the mall, the Von Maur shooting,” Hall recalled. “The videos, the radio calls, since then even now, that’s all that’s ringing through my head.”

Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall owner GGP has since said that it did “not allow any form of mask, prop or costume deemed inappropriate or offensive.” The Omaha World-Herald attempted to contact mall security about the incident, but the person who answered the phone could not comment.

WATCH: Florida police, firefighters dance to 'Thriller' for Teal Pumpkin Project

Officers and firefighters in one Florida city are showing off their dance moves in a viral video to raise awareness about food allergies this Halloween.

>> Watch the video here

According to WTSP, the Tarpon Springs police and fire departments re-created Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video for the Teal Pumpkin Project. The annual campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education aims to make Halloween "more fun and inclusive for millions of children with food allergies and other dietary restrictions," according to its website. Participants place a teal pumpkin on their doorstep and offer non-food treats like toys to trick-or-treaters. Learn more here.

>> Read more trending news

The police and fire departments also are raising money for the nonprofit CURED, the Campaign Urging Research for Eosinophilic Disease. According to a police press release, "many children with Eosinophilic diseases cannot eat or ingest food orally." To make a donation, visit the foundation's website here.

Paris and Prince Jackson show off Halloween costumes on the red carpet

After hitting the red carpet on Tuesday, Paris and Prince Jackson made another rare red carpet appearance three days later, showing off their Halloween costumes in the process.

>> Kim Kardashian West dressed up as Cher for Halloween, and people are loving it

The brother and sister stepped out together for the Heal LA and TLK Fusion Present the second annual Costume for a Cause at the Jackson family home in California, People reported. Paris sported a purple dragon costume with matching slippers and white face paint. Meanwhile, Prince donned a black-and-white body suit.

>> Hoda Kotb shows off baby daughter's adorable 1st Halloween costume

Paris shared a cute behind-the-scenes video on Instagram, showing her brother giving her a piggyback ride in costume.

>> See the video here

>> On Rare.us: Prince Jackson and Paris Jackson make a rare appearance on the red carpet together

Earlier this week, the pair appeared on the red carpet for an event at the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Paris, who was Taylor’s goddaughter, recently became an ambassador for the foundation.

>> Read more trending news

“It’s very rare that you see someone with that kind of influence really use their platform for something so important," Paris said of Taylor at an ETAF benefit dinner on Thursday. "She wasn’t going to let the HIV/AIDS pandemic run wild as it directly impacted her friends and loved ones.”

Hoda Kotb shows off baby daughter's adorable 1st Halloween costume

Hoda Kotb is so excited to celebrate her baby girl Haley Joy’s first Halloween that she showed off her little one’s adorable costume ahead of the big night, People reports.

>> Kim Kardashian West dressed up as Cher for Halloween, and people are loving it

“I couldn’t wait!” Kotb captioned a photo of Haley donning a plush Jack-o’-lantern costume and a huge smile.

>> See the photo here

>> On Rare.us: Hoda Kotb shares yet another precious photo of her daughter Haley 'just because'

The “Today” host adopted Haley back in February, and her life hasn’t been the same since, saying, “There’s a line of demarcation: before Haley and after Haley. Every day after Haley is better than every single day before.”

>> Read more trending news 

Kotb is now navigating motherhood for the first time with some help from boyfriend and the man Hayley calls dad, Joel Schiffman. The proud mom has been active about sharing pictures and milestones with fans on social media.

>> On Rare.us: Hoda Kotb’s latest picture of her 'everything,' daughter Haley Joy, just might be the cutest one yet

“It’s one of those things where you think you’ve done it all, you think you’ve felt it all. But I just didn’t know that this kind of love existed,” Kotb said after welcoming Haley Joy into her life.

Kim Kardashian West dressed up as Cher for Halloween, and people are loving it

After channeling her on the September cover of Harper’s Bazaar, Kim Kardashian West dressed up as her icon Cher again for Halloween, and fans can’t get enough of her costume, which replicated the singer’s look at the 1973 Academy Awards, People reports.

>> Read more trending news

“Cher definitely has a better body,” Kardashian West said on Periscope. “Her stomach … I don’t think anyone could compare.”

The reality TV star donned a long black wig and a custom-made replica of Cher’s infamous outfit. Her best friend, Jonathan Cheban, stood in as Sonny. She shared several videos and pictures of her ensemble on social media, even teasing fans with hints about her costume before the big reveal.

>> See the tweet here

“Because I love her and we’re going to a ’70s party. You know I love her,” she said about her costume.

Not only did Cher herself approve of Kardashian West’s costume, writing on Twitter, “Woke To See You Are Me 4 [Halloween] You Look BEAUTIFUL Little Armenian Sister,” but fans made it known they loved the look, as well:

>> See Cher's tweet here

The spooky history of Halloween: 7 things you never knew

More than 179 million Americans are slated to participate in this year’s Halloween festivities, according to the National Retail Foundation, and the season is forecast to reach a spending high of $9.1 billion.

>> Read more trending news 

» RELATED: The 15 hottest Halloween costumes of 2017, according to Google

In 2016, according to NRF, total spending hit a record $8.4 billion.

The history of this crazed holiday and its spooky traditions dates back more than 2,000 years. 

Here are 7 things you probably never knew about Halloween:

It all started with an ancient Celtic festival.

Halloween’s spooky origins come from an ancient Celtic festival for the dead called Samhain (or “Summer’s End”).

» RELATED: The 5 best and worst states to go trick-or-treating

The Celts, who lived in the region now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France thousands of years ago, celebrated Samhain on Nov. 1 to mark the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of a new year, kicking off with the bitter cold winter, a season typically associated with death. 

According to History.com, the Celts believed that the night before the new year “the lines between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred” and ghosts of the dead returned to earth and ravaged the crops. They also believed the ghosts and “otherworldly spirits” gave Celtic priests, or Druids, a vision into the future.

“For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter,” according to History.com.

And so, on the eve of Samhain (Oct. 31), Druids built enormous bonfires and the Celts, dressed in costumes made of animal heads and skins, sacrificed their crops and animals to the Celtic gods.

When the Samhain celebrations were coming to an end, the Celts re-lit their hearth fires with fire from the sacred bonfire built by the Druids in hopes that its heat will keep them safe during the coming winter.

Why is it called Halloween?

The moniker comes from Catholicism’s All-hallowmas, a three-day holiday honoring the saints and recently deceased.

During the 7th century, Christianity spread throughout Celtic lands and influenced Celtic religion and popular traditions, including the famous Samhain holiday.

History.com notes, “it’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday.”

» RELATED: Afraid of clowns? You're not alone.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decreed Nov. 1 All Saints’ Day and the evening before, All Hallows Eve. Nov. 2 later became All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.

The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas. In Middle English, “Alholowmesse” translates to All Saints’ Day.

The night before All Saints’ Day, which is the traditional night of the Celtic Samhain festival, eventually became known as All-Hallows Eve and later, Halloween.

Where did trick-or-treating come from?

The notion of dressing up in costume and going from door to door for goods dates back to the Middle Ages, according to Smithsonian.com.

“Children and sometimes poor adults would dress up [as saints, angels or demons costumes] and go around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers, often said on behalf of the dead.”

» RELATED: Halloween 2017: Best trick or treat times

According to Smithsonian.com, back then it wasn’t called trick-or-treating. It was called “souling” and the beggars were called “soulers.”

The practice of trick-or-treating emerged in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s.

But the earliest known reference to the term “trick or treat” actually comes from a 1927 publication in Canada.

Here’s what the Smithsonian found in the Nov. 4, 1927, edition of the Blackie, Alberta Canada Herald:

“Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.”

Still, how exactly Americans adopted the tradition is still a little confusing, History.com reported, though it’s widely understood that Irish and Scottish immigrants brought Halloween traditions to the U.S. with them.

Theorists also say it could have been the excessive pranks on Halloween that led to its adoption as a holiday tradition. 

These pranks were popular among “rowdy young people” and often amounted to expensive damage, vandalism and physical violence.

When World War II broke out, however, trick-or-treating came to a halt due to sugar rationing.

Today, Americans spend millions on costumes annually to partake in the door-to-door tradition.

How did Protestants feel about Halloween?

During Reformation, the holiday came under attack by some Protestants with rigid belief systems who denounced purgatory as a “popish” doctrine.

Purgatory is a Roman Catholic theology that refers to a state between life and death, where one would have to “undergo purification” to enter heaven. It’s often regarded as a temporary state of suffering.

As aforementioned, Halloween dates back to the Celtic Samhain festival on Oct. 31, when “the lines between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred” and spread through Europe as a holiday with traditions for the souls in purgatory.

The Protestants believe the Bible does not explicitly discuss purgatory and, therefore, rejected it as a biblical belief.

They believed salvation is achieved through faith alone and souls cannot journey from this state of purgatory to heaven.

While many celebrate Halloween on Oct. 31, many rigid Protestants celebrate Reformation Day, commemorating a major period of religious change in Europe and the day German theologian Martin Luther’s proposals were nailed on the doors of a church in 1517.

Today, many contemporary Protestant communities celebrate Halloween as a fun family event.

In his 1998 book, “A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” Christian minister Sam Portaro wrote that Halloween is about using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.”

How did Halloween gain popularity in the United States?

It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that Halloween really started to gain popularity. That’s due to an influx of Irish immigrants fleeing the Irish Potato Famine.

But due to rigid Protestant belief systems in colonial New England, the holiday wasn’t as popular in those regions. 

According to History.com, the holiday and its traditions were much more common in the southern colonies and in Maryland, where folks would tell ghost stories and play pranks.

What’s up with jack-o’-lanterns?

The origin of the angry orange pumpkin (or jack-o’-Lantern) comes from a Celtic folk tale of a miserly farmer named Jack who constantly played tricks on the devil. His nickname was “Stingy Jack.”

» RELATED: How a teal pumpkin can save a child’s life

According to History.com, for one of his tricks, Stingy Jack invited the devil to join him for a drink. Once they were together, he pretended not to have any money to pay for his beverage and convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin they could use to buy the drinks.

The devil did so, but instead of paying for the drinks, Jack kept the coin in his pocket, where he also kept his silver cross.

This, he believed, prevented the devil from returning to his original form.

But eventually, after performing multiple tricks on the devil, Jack died. Legend says God wouldn’t let a man like him into heaven. And the devil, unsurprisingly angry with Jack and his cons, wouldn’t let him into hell, either.

Instead, the devil sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light the way, History.com reported. Jack put the burning coal into “a carved-out turnip” and has been roaming the planet since.

Irishmen began to refer to Stingy Jack as “Jack of the Lantern” and later, “Jack O’Lantern.”

Throughout Europe, Englishmen used large beets or turnips or even potatoes to create the lanterns. When immigrants came to America, pumpkins were adopted.

Today, the jack-o’-lantern in pumpkin form is a staple in Halloween decor.

Why are black cats associated with Halloween?

Black cats are another creepy Halloween symbol dating back the Middle Ages, but theorists say their association with Halloween may originate from Puritan pilgrims of Plymouth County, a group that lived a rigid Protestant lifestyle.

Legend has it that witches, who many believed worshiped the devil, would protect their identities by turning themselves into black cats.

The Puritans, along with other strict Protestants, often shunned witchcraft and other Halloween traditions as going against their belief system.

Unfortunately, due to all of the superstitions around black cats, the creatures have some of the lowest adoption rates and the highest euthanasia rates of all cats, according to Smithsonian.com.

And for decades, many animal shelters have refused to adopt out black cats on or right before Halloween out of fear they will be tortured or sacrificed, according to Gizmodo.

“This is a time when blood rituals take place,” Hedy Litke, director of animal placement at the ASPCA, told K.C. Baker for the New York Daily News in 1999. “Black cats are often sacrificed.”

Learn more about the history of Halloween at history.com.

Trump tombstone at elementary school's Halloween party stirs controversy

A Halloween party at an elementary school in Gloucester, Massachusetts, featured a controversial decoration – a tombstone with the president's name on it

>> Watch the news report here

Apparently, one of the parents brought the tombstone labeled "Don Trump" to West Parish Elementary School's recent "Halloween Happenings" party. 

"It's not a place to put out a political agenda of any kind. And it upsets me that somebody would think it was appropriate to expose young children to it," said Amanda Orlando Kesterson, chair of the Gloucester Republican Committee. 

It's no surprise Kesterson is defending a Republican president, but she also maintains she would do the same for any president, regardless of politics.

>> Read more trending news

"I had very many difficulties with many of the things President Obama did ... but the office of the president deserves respect," Kesterson said. 

She says the tombstone wasn't removed even after she complained to the principal about it. 

"While, according to the parent, this was designated to be humorous, a number of attendees rightfully felt that it showed disrespect," Telena S. Imel, the principal of West Parish Elementary, said in a statement. "In planning future events, it will be made clear to organizers that school is not the place to engage in or display political agendas or opinions." 

Halloween 2017: Best trick or treat times

While the best time to trick or treat is usually on Halloween itself, it is important to recognize neighborhood and community guidelines. Heading out during the best trick or treat times can also maximize the candy haul for your little superhero or princess. After all, that’s what the holiday is about for many kids and kids at heart.Here's the strategy parenting and health experts developed for the best trick-or-treat times: The day of the week: You'll need to plan a little differently when Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday, when you can potentially stay out a little later but might want to head home before you're coping with drunk drivers from costume parties.Another tricky situation is when Halloween falls on a Sunday. The biggest issues are whether trick-or-treating will clash with the church crowd. If your city doesn't determine whether trick-or-treating will occur on Saturday instead, you'll need to survey the neighbors to see what their plans are. Most debates online settle on sticking with Oct. 31 for trick-or-treating regardless of the day of the week, but your area might be different. What your town says: Be aware that many towns and municipalities now set aside specific times for trick-or-treating. You can usually find them on your city or community's web page or in a community posting group like NextDoor.com. If you're just looking for a general idea, most areas allow (or encourage) trick-or-treating between 4 and 9 p.m. Dark or no dark? You'll definitely want to anticipate when it will get dark when you're planning what time to trick or treat. According to the How to Adult blog, the sun will most likely set between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on Halloween, depending on your location, and it will get dark by 7:30 p.m.If you have young children, you may want to go to a few houses while it's still light if they're afraid of the dark (or you're afraid of the after-dark vibe in your  target area.) If you do opt to be out trick-or-treating after dark,  Verywell recommended making each child more visible by having them carry something that lights up, whether glow bracelet, flashlight or flashing attire. Light-up shoes were another good idea. Plan your route: It may seem like overkill, but way too many car accidents happen between 5 and 7 p.m. and kids come to harm while trick-or-treating all too often. Safety experts recommend that adults do a bit of prep on the trick-or-treating route before deciding on the best trick or treat times. Check the route during daylight hours for broken sidewalks or places where you can't safely walk and also figure out how long it will take you to complete your circuit. That way, you can allow more time by starting earlier or cut a few houses from your plans if you want to be home early or before dark. Also look over the route if your tween will be out with a group of friends and make sure the kids carry a cellphone for emergencies. The recommended time: The ideal times for most families to trick or treat is 6:30 to 8 p.m., according to How to Adult. This is the time period when people are usually home from work and ready to participate in festivities. A 6:30 p.m. trick or treat start time also gives kids plenty of time to eat dinner and put on their costumes. For extended periods: If you plan to trick or treat for more than an hour or so, prepare yourself and the kids. Choose shoes that fit well and have been worn before, pick costumes that won't drag on the ground and are bathroom-friendly and plan to stop at a friend's house for water and bathroom breaks, How to Adult recommends. To get the most candy: Hey, Halloween only comes once a year. Your kids can be forgiven if they want to trick or treat during times that yield the most, or the best, candy at the end of the night. To time trick-or-treating for the maximum haul, start with the areas that are going to have the most or best candy first. Experts told Readers Digest that the longer you stay out on Halloween night, the worse the quality of candy gets, but you might end up with more in quantity, because people are anticipating you might be one of their last groups. If you have older kids who are ready to tote and walk without complaining, consider taking a last lap in a dense-population neighborhood or spot well-known for welcoming trick-or-treaters. If you think it's going to be tough to carry that much candy the rest of the way, consider a quick detour to drop off the first batch of treats after you've covered the main drags.When to wrap it up: On a school night Halloween, the best time to wrap up the trick-or-treating is between 8:30 and 9 p.m. as families and others start their rituals for the next day, according to Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert and blogger at Hitched. You may keeping going for an hour or so later if Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday. For those handing out treats, when you’re all out of candy or ready to call it a night, make sure to turn off your outdoor lights and take in any fresh pumpkins or jack-o’-lanterns to avoid after-hours tricksters, added Gottsman. 

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