How Halloween Started

  • By: Absinthe
  • Date: August 21, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

How Halloween started in the United States is a mystery, but the Irish helped bring it to life. Fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, immigrants from Ireland helped popularize the holiday in America. While Europeans celebrated the holiday in costumes, Americans borrowed from this tradition, dressing up in costume and trick-or-treating to get food and money. Many young women believed they could divine their future husbands through tricks and treats.

Trick-or-treating

In addition to being a kid-centric tradition, trick-or-treating has a fascinating history. It is believed that the phrase trick-or-treat was coined in the late 19th century and was most likely derived from a newspaper article in Alberta, Canada. Today, it is an activity that is still popular in many countries. Whether it originated in the United States or Europe, trick-or-treating is a tradition that has grown into a global phenomenon.

While trick-or-treating is rooted in Celtic tradition, it has become much more common in the United States. Irish-American immigrants introduced the practice by merging Celtic and Irish agricultural traditions. By the nineteenth century, newspapers reported on Halloween parties among college students. In the following century, high schools and rotary clubs began throwing Halloween parties, and guidebooks were published for planning a party. By the 1930s, trick-or-treating had become a popular term in the United States. By the mid-1950s, it was becoming a safer and more kid-friendly activity.

The modern practice of trick-or-treating may have originated in the Middle Ages. Children dressed up in costumes to frighten away ghosts and spirits were common during the celebration. Eventually, the practice spread to the countryside and the Midwest. In the 1930s, trick-or-treating became popular as an alternative to door-to-door candy. In these days, many neighborhoods organize Halloween parties for kids to go door-to-door and collect treats.

Costumes

How Halloween began is a highly complex story. Still, the tradition’s beginnings can be traced back to Celtic priests delivering prophecies, gathering townspeople around bonfires to give food, and telling fortunes. This tradition survived into the 20th century when it began to spread outside of ethnic communities. The first documented “guising” in the Americas took place in 1911 in Ontario, Canada – technically part of the United States. In 1919, historian Ruth Edna Kelley published a book on the history of Halloween.

Halloween costumes evolved from religious symbols to scary, funny, and creative as time passed. The idea of dressing up as a saint or in some other spooky costume originated in Celtic and European cultures. During the long, dark winters, many people were frightened of the dark and often wore masks to protect themselves from evil spirits. Over time, the holiday has evolved from its original religious roots to become one of the most popular holidays of the year.

In the 16th century, poor people would beg on All Souls’ Day and be given soul cakes as a reward. Children later adopted this custom, and soul cakes were given to kids in exchange for prayers. This tradition evolved into trick-or-treating, which was subsequently commercialized. Today, trick-or-treating has become a huge holiday event and major celebration. But how did Halloween get its name?

Candles

How Halloween started with candles is a fascinating history. The ancient Celts believed that during the shortest day of the year, the veil between the living and the dead was thinner, and spirits from the dead could walk the Earth. They used candles and bonfires to protect themselves against winter darkness and carved hideous pumpkin faces into them to carry as lanterns. The tradition of lighting candles on Halloween is linked to divination, as sweethearts placed a pair of nuts in the fire. If they burned peacefully, they would marry, while if they caught on fire, it would be an unhappy marriage.

Before candles became associated with Halloween, many traditions surrounded this celebration. The first ones were associated with the Celtic end-of-summer festival of Samhain, while others attribute them to Christian celebrations. It is believed that lighting candles during the night enlightened spirits and kept evil ones at bay. Candles were also used to light paths for the dead. The ancient Celts often lit candles at home to guide the dead, and it is believed that these blazes guided spirits to the afterlife. Today, candles are an important part of decorating for Halloween.

A few years ago, Halloween was made even crazier. As the popularity of candles grew, many companies began producing Halloween-themed candles. This included Candles of the same name. These candles were created by a company called freedom226, whose products are scented with pumpkin-based fragrances, making them a perfect addition to any Halloween party. With so many different scents, various candles were created to capture the holiday spirit.

Haunted Houses

The Halloween tradition of haunted houses dates back to the 1800s. It was during the Great Depression that trick-or-treating and homemade haunted houses were popular. Parents could create these attractions using cardboard, dark rooms, and fake spider webs. The concept caught on, and soon haunted events were being held in homes and the community. Nowadays, more than 3,000 haunted houses are located around the world.

In the same era, professional haunted houses took over, outspending nonprofit groups like the Jaycees. The haunted house industry became so popular that the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce published a how-to guide. Knott’s Berry Farm began holding Halloween night attractions, which eventually became a weeklong schedule of events. Bob Burns, a California man who re-created classic horror films, gained national media attention for his haunted houses. The haunted house industry also faced criticisms from Evangelical Christians.

Haunted houses became popular after Hollywood came out with more movies and TV shows with frightening themes. Popular movies like “Halloween” were popular inspirations for haunted houses. In the 1970s and ’80s, slasher films became popular, bringing the idea of scaring people with chainsaws to life. Haunted houses became scarier and more realistic than ever before.

Celtic Origins

Did you know that the Celtic origins of Halloween go back to the ancient Celts? Before the Christian religion took hold in Europe, people in Scotland celebrated Samhuinn, which means “summer’s end” in English. The day marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It was a time of supernatural danger, and people made food offerings to their gods to appease the spirits of the dead.

After the Romans conquered most Celtic lands, the Halloween festival changed celebration. Today, trick-or-treating is mainly devoted to children dressed in costumes searching for treats, but pranks, such as washing windows, are also part of the tradition. Halloween has always been full of mystery, superstition, and magic. The Celts used to leave treats out for friendly spirits and light candles in their houses to scare away ghosts. However, modern ghosts and superstitions are much scarier and are not connected to the Celtic origins of Halloween.

The Celts equated the night of October 31 with the beginning of winter. That night, the veil between the two worlds was fragile, and ghosts would return to Earth. To combat the spirits, they lit large bonfires and sacrificed animals. While these rituals are not as common today, they were a part of the Celts’ way of celebrating the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

Commercialization

As the commercialization of Halloween continues to grow, the holiday is becoming more of a business opportunity. It is estimated that the commercialization of Halloween generates $150 million over three months in Arizona, and 4,000 to 5,000 jobs are created. This increase in sales largely results from increased wholesale and transportation of products for sale. Most of these products are already in the country before the tariffs went into effect. However, the increased price of imported products has increased the competition among businesses.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers noted the growing number of commercial businesses that target this holiday. These retailers are targeting lower and upper-middle-class consumers. The research focused on the consumer experience during the Halloween season, and the study period was between mid-October and October 31, 1990. Due to the short study period, there was no time to investigate the commercialization of Halloween after the holiday had passed. Participants were observed in retail stores and festival sites located in suburban areas of the Northeast United States. Interviews, field notes, and photography were used to collect data.

Sadly, this increase in the commercialization of Halloween also reflects negative aspects of the holiday for children. Many households do not provide candy for trick-or-treaters, and children feel let down. Research shows that the number of homes with two incomes has declined to a point where children cannot accept that their parents are unable to provide them with enough candy. However, some individuals understand the importance of the holiday and have embraced it with open arms.

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