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Celebrating Halloween In America
How Halloween Began
Many fans of this October holiday are completely unaware of its origin. When we think of Halloween our minds quickly dream up images of black cats, ghouls, witches, pagan rituals, tombstones and graveyards. The excitement of children trick or treating or adult attending costume parties abounds.
Halloween which is now associated with scary things actually began as a holiday very similar to our modern day Thanksgiving actually began more than two thousand years ago by the Celts lead by the Druids active in northern England, Ireland and Scotland as social gatherings celebrating the end of the growing season with a huge feast. This time of year was referred to as Samhain another term for summers end. During this ritual Druids would dress in costume, foretell the future and welcome the spirits of the dead.
Over a period of time Christian influence impacted these regions and religious leaders viewed this ritual as devil worship and replaced it with a Christian holiday honoring the saints. The new holiday became All Hallows Day meaning All Saints Day celebrated on November 1st. The evening before the holiday was referred to as All Hallows Eve which later was shortened to Halloween. Even though it was intended to be a Christian holiday, many of the pagan rituals survived leading up to the modern day Halloween customs that are so widely celebrated today.
Halloween Arrives in the USA
Halloween started becoming popular in the U.S. right after the end of the Civil War and was probably introduced by Scottish immigrants who had previously celebrated the holiday in their homeland. During the eighteen eighties and nineties parties and decorations started becoming an annual ritual. Decorations in the early years were handmade or natural products consisting of pumpkins and corn stalks. As the holiday popularity increased year after year in the early 1900s commercial products were created specifically designed for Halloween celebrations. One of the early leaders in commercial products was the Dennison Paper Company that produced a full line of books and decorations that consisted of Halloween recipes, party ideas, stories and decorating ideas.
Trick or Treat Begins
One of the most memorable things about Halloween growing up was going from door to door in my neighborhood disguised in costume shouting out trick or treat in hope of receiving some great candy. This practice probably began in the early years as a form of begging. One theory on this is that the less fortunate would more likely have success going from door to door begging for food at this time of year than any other. There are no standing records the practice of trick or treating in the U.S. prior to the nineteen twenties. Prior to this pranksters would disguise themselves to protect their true identities and play tricks, often mean ones on neighbors and shop keepers. In attempt to curtail these activities they began giving children treats, a form of a bribe in hopes that they would be spared the trick.