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How Halloween Has Changed Over the Decades As A Family Tradition - A Brief History

Updated on October 31, 2011

Early History of Halloween

We can safely surmise that Halloween is an historical event composed of the effects of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Catholic Hallowmas time period), the Celtic Samhain holiday and the Roman festival of Feralia, the latter of which occurred in late February to honor the dead. In the 1800s, the behavior of Halloween turned from religious to a child's celebratory event. During this time period, many, many Irish immigrants leaving the potato famine contributed to Halloween's popularity. Telling ghost stories and playing games like apple bobbing were common.

Poor people would go around and ask for food or money and in time, children would practice this routine, but wear costumes. Past superstitions began to dissipate and in time October 31 became a more friendlier event apart from the European custom or beliefs.

In the early 1900s, playing pranks became so popular, even to someone's chagrin because of damage to property. In time, the concept of "Trick or Treat" became widespread in the 1940s and the vandalism was not as prevelant. The old vintage cards displaying Halloween themes with the phrase are collectibles. During World War II, however, Halloween was cancelled in 1942 and 1943.

Let's Jump to the 1960s & 1970s

When I was growing up in the 60s, it was safe to walk the streets in your bulky homemade costumes with your little buddies going from door to door for lots of candy. We used pillow cases to carry more candy. The only thing we worried about was how late could we stay out so we could collect as much candy as possible! Children still use pillow cases and the little ones carry their plastic pumpkin holders.

During the 70s, I was outgrowing trick or treating and graduating into passing out the candy. The movie, "Carrie," was the scary movie to see with Sissy Spacek and an early flic role for John Travolta. As for music, there was the "Monster Mash" song.

You could have dressed up as John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever," a go-go dancer or the ever popular hippie. And, probably anywhere between the 60s and the 70s, a girl could have thrown on something paisley or psychedelic, worn a peace sign necklace and a big lapel button that read, "feelin' groovy."



When my children were growing up, they could never go trick or treating without an adult. There was a time frame when parents decided not to take to the streets, but go to events at the neighborhood mall. Parents were also going to hospitals to have candy x-rayed all because of ill-humored and destructive items found in candy.

Halloween costumes that were made or bought included themes from "E.T.," "Beetlejuice," "Ghostbusters," just to name a few. Or, you could have dressed up like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cindi Lauper, one of the Kiss performers, or wear neon and look like a punk rocker.


The 90s represented my daughter's last journey with Halloween. A girl could dress up as one of the Spice Girls or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or go Goth. A boy could dress up as Forrest Gump or Austin Powers. And, yes, there is a site on the web that actually sells costumes related to Austin Powers.

The media even added more thrill such as ABC broadcasting the 13 days of scary movies leading up to the scariest night of all.

My son now has two daughters to take out in the neighborhood with other parents who walk with their young children and it's interesting to see how the family traditional cycle continues. My oldest granddaughter has a tree nut allergy so every item tossed in her treat bag has to be checked, rechecked and then if a piece of candy looks questionable, it gets tossed in the kitchen outgoing bag. Last year, we took the girls to a pumpkin farm event where there were mini-haunted houses for children, games and food. We couldn't decide how many pumpkins we shouldn't bring home!

People share haunted tales and one of the most famous houses believed to be haunted is the White House. Several prominent individuals over the years have indicated they had either seen the ghost of Abraham Lincoln or felt his presence.

Due to capitalism and the media, it's believed by some these were major contributors to the diminished effect of the once religious and spiritual meaning behind this candy holiday. While there may be some truth to that notion, one cannot argue that it has also simply evolved over time.

As for pumpkin carving fans, prices for pumpkins are supposed to be up this year due to the effects of the hurricane in the northeast, which will create a shortage. This will only provide more profit for pumpkin growers in other parts of the country.

So what are you dressing up as this year?


Submit a Comment

  • poetryman6969 profile image


    3 years ago

    What did that pumpkin ever do to you?

    Some old timey photos of Halloween celebrations can seem unaccountably creepy. Have you ever seen that one where it looks like a group of pumpkins heads are walking around reading books?

  • TattooKitty profile image


    7 years ago from Hawaii

    Awesome hub! I had no idea Halloween was canceled during WWII- what a drag!! Halloween is BY FAR my favorite holiday of the year ;0) You can be whatever you want to be AND strangers give you candy...sugarific!!

    Haven't decided what to be this year...too much to choose from, lol! Hmmmm....

    Thanks for the great read!


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