HALLOWEEN COMES TO AMERICA
Colonial New England celebrated Halloween with reservations because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. The state of Maryland and the South celebrated Halloween more than any other. The culture of American Indians and the Europeans mixed later to give birth to a new culture that celebrated Halloween differently. Immigrants from Ireland brought Irish and English traditions, and Americans started dressing up in costumes and went around asking for food or money, this practice has become what we today call “trick-or-treat.”
In the late nineteenth century, America began celebrating Halloween more as a holiday geared towards community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. By the end of the century, both children and adults participated in Halloween. Now it was focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. The “frightening” or “grotesque” elements were taken out of Halloween celebrations. Slowly, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
Halloween began to be community celebration with parades and town-wide parties. Trick-or-treat continues to be a way for the entire community to share the Halloween celebration. Today, it is the country’s second largest commercial holiday with Americans spending about $ 6 million annually.
Dressing up in costume for Halloween has its roots both in European and Celtic culture. Several hundreds of years ago, winter represented a time of the year when uncertainty and fear ruled. People were full of worry about the impending dark and ghosts. To keep away ghosts from entering their homes, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts. They lighted candles in the path to help the spirits to return safely.
Halloween was more about games, tricks, and superstitions which have been long forgotten in the current traditions. Women expecting to get to know the name of their future husbands using apple peels, using hazelnuts to understand if their love would last, etc. are superstitions that were believed in the past.
Children will be seen dressed in scary costumes walking from door to door asking residents – “treat or trick”? The homeowner can either offer them candies or be tricked.
Many cities have their own celebrations like the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York City this year. Halloween is not just a festival. It is a big business with retailers expecting to sell products including costumes in millions. It is the time when US consumes the most amount of candies.