Halloween Practices in America
We all know and love Halloween as it is today, but have Halloween practices always been the way we know it? America, and its people have gone through many changes since the first Europeans showed up on our shores. So, how did we get to the Halloween we know and love?
The Puritans showed up in America to escape religious persecution. They thought that Halloween was a Pagan holiday and refused to practice it. I mean, these are the people who started the Salem Witch Trials, after all. Anything that was not considered Godly, was frowned upon and traditional Halloween practices from Europe fell into that category.
As people from all over the world poured into our country, they brought their Halloween practices with them. No longer was Halloween considered something evil, but something that was culturally important. Their practices changed and morphed into what we know now.
Jack O’ Lanterns:
Jack O’ Lanterns come from an old, Irish legend about “Stingy Jack.” Stingy Jack made a deal with the devil that if the devil turned himself into a coin, Jack would buy two drinks, one for each of them. After Jack bought the drink, he placed the coin in his pocket. After Jack died, he was not allowed into heaven, and the Devil refused to let him into Hell. Stingy Jack was forced to stay here as a spirit. The people of Ireland started carving faces into squash and potatoes to scare away Jack. Once the Halloween practice was brought America, squashes and potatoes were switched out with pumpkins.
Trick or Treating:
Back in the middle ages, it was common for people, mostly kids, and poor adults, to dress into costumes on Hallowmas. They would go door to door to the village and ask for food or money in return for a prayer or a song. This was called “guising.” As this Halloween custom was brought over to America, it turned into kids asking for candy in return for the phrase “trick or treat.” The phrase ‘trick or treat” and actually going door to door didn’t even start in America until the 1920’s!
As I said I said earlier, “guising” was one of the ways the Halloween custom of wearing costumes started. However, that isn’t the only place that costuming was used. The Celts also would dress up during Samhain. They usually used animal skins and heads. The people of Mexico also dress up during the Day of the Dead. Costume wearing came from many different cultures. In early America, costumes were made out of old clothes and homemade masks. These masks were often made out of fabric or paper mache’. Halloween masks were only starting to get massed produced in the 1930s.
Halloween practices in early America were a mix of so many cultures and practices. It is amazing how they all came together to create the Halloween that we know now. Makes you think more about all of the Halloween practices we do each year, huh? Happy Halloween!