Halloween, a holiday celebrated every year on October 31, has a quite interesting history. Looking back at my childhood memories, to me all Halloweens meant trick-or-treating, candies and costumes. Despite it is scary myth, it is always celebrated in a fun and exciting way. Today, Halloween has become more than just a celebration of ancient myths. The day plays a big role on American’s consumption on costumes, candies, decorations and the holiday food which has any form of pumpkins in it. Halloween is also a big business on the entertainment, party and fashion industry. Lets take a look at how it all started, giving ourselves a ride back for more than 2000 years.
How did it get its name? If you ever wondered why we call this holiday “Halloween”; then you will have to check back on its history. The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening the day when ancient Celtics believed spirits coming out and overlapping with the real world also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve. The day has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on that day spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, ghosts and other creatures were also said to be abroad.
Part of the history of Halloween is of course the costumes. The practice of dressing up in costumes and knocking on door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folks would go door to door on Hallowmas, receiving food in return for prayers for the dead. It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. So, in the early form of trick-or-treating, Celts who dressed up as spirits are believed to have gone from house to house engaging in silly acts in exchange for food and drink a practice inspired perhaps by an earlier custom of leaving food and drink outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings.
So, how did this practice came over to the U.S.? It did with the first large wave of immigrants who came from Ireland, England and Scotland. In some parts of these countries it was common for kids to go out and ask for food, money or other items. People who refused to give anything would sometimes find chalk drawings on their doors the next morning or find they were the victims of other pranks. When immigrants came to the US they brought their traditions with them and on all Halloween each year in some immigrant communities it would be common to see small children, usually boys, with makeup or soot on their faces or wearing crude masks made from bags going around begging at different houses.
All about the Pumpkins: In Ireland and Scotland, traditionally people used turnip to carve on halloweens to create images, but immigrants to North America started using pumpkins instead, which is both much softer and much larger making it easier to carve for them as well. Subsequently, the marketing of various size pumpkins in autumn, in both the corporate and local markets, has made pumpkins universally available for this purpose. Nowadays, in this holiday season we see pumpkins being used in so many places in food industry. Places like Starbucks, dunkin donuts or other local coffee shops will have their seasonal pumpkin flavored coffees, pumpkin pound cakes, pumpkin donuts, cookies, cupcakes displayed for sale on their shelfs. In addition to that, restaurants can make their seasonal specialties that may include pumpkin soup, pumpkin sauce pastas or pumpkin pancakes to be served for breakfast.
Business of the Halloween: According to the National Retail Federation’s long-running consumer survey, the average person spends a total of $75.03 on decorations, costumes, and candy. Costumes consume the biggest part of the United States’ Halloween dollars for about $28.65 per person, followed closely by candy and decorations. With Halloween stores like “Party City” all around the country, it is hard to reject getting a new costume and transforming yourself into a cool and fun character each year. Surveys show that this year some of the most popular adult costumes were; witch , batman character, vampire, zombie, cat, pirate, action/super hero, dracula or scary costume/masks. The costumes are not only for people, pets get into the act as well and that is when things can become even more fun.
The long story short, no matter how you dress or what you believe in those ancient myths, Halloween for all of us has become a part of the experience of going out and having fun and I hope you do have the best time this year!