We are fast approaching the end of 2016 and a plethora of holidays. The first one, now that we are at the end of October is Halloween. Halloween has been celebrated for quite some time here in the U.S. But how did it start and why do we celebrate it?
Halloween was a limited celebration in early America mostly because of religious beliefs of the time. Halloween was much more common a festivity in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the culture of the immigrating Europeans and the culture of the American Indians began to mesh, there became a more distinct version of the Halloween holiday. The first Halloween activities included “play parties,” these events were held to celebrate the harvest. This is where people started to tell stories of the dead, “ghost stories” and started fortune telling.
As the years past, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, mainly the Irish who were escaping the potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween. The new Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house, a recognizable habit today know as trick or treating.
In the late 1800's, Americans wanted the holiday to represent parties and events hosted by friend, more than being about the dead and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. These parties had games, seasonal food items (pumpkin spiced lattes?) and costumes.
By the 1920's and 1930's, Halloween became more of a community-centered holiday, with parades and parties. Despite the best efforts of many communities, vandalism started to become part of Halloween celebrations. By the 1950's, town leaders were working to limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the school classrooms with costume parades.
Between 1920 and 1950, the practice of trick-or-treating was also started to make a come back. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow.
Believe it or not according to Forbes magazine, Americans spend an estimated $5-$7 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday, behind, you guessed it Christmas.
~Sean Hogan has coached hockey at the international and collegiate levels for over ten years. He has spoken at numerous events about culture building, goal setting and healthy lifestyles. He holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Recreation and Sports Science with an emphasis on Coaching Education from OHIO University.