We all remember dressing up in costumes (some of us still do) for Halloween. A night of pure adrenaline, rushing to door after door, being greeted by strangers, neighbors and school teachers alike.
If you’re American, like me, you probably haven’t put much thought into the Holidays we celebrate in relation to the rest of the world.
Even though Halloween pre-dates Christianity (unlike Christmas and Easter), it is celebrated around the world on October 31st. Of course not every single Country has a celebration for it, but quite a majority do.
But, how and why did such a strange event come to be?
When did Halloween start?
Dating back over 2,000 years ago, it was Celtic tradition to have a festival on October 31st called “Samhain”.
The Celts lived in the area of the world that is now known as Ireland, northern France, and the United Kingdom.
It was believed that on Samhain, the dead returned to Earth; people would gather to offer sacrifices, light bonfires and pay homage to the dead.
During these celebrations, patrons of the festival would disguise themselves in animal costumes to drive away unwanted visitors from the afterlife. There would be food, and drinks to keep the peace among the party guests.
[Hence the “Treat” aspect of “Trick-Or-Treat”]
Later, as history explains it, people would dress up as more malevolent creatures; ghosts, demons, and other disguises were commonly seen. These party-goers would perform foolish, outrageous or amusing behavior for food or drinks.
While the tradition morphed over centuries, Christians claimed November 2nd as “All Souls Day”, to honor the dead. Celebrations resembled that of the Celtic celebrations with bonfires, and casual costume parties.
At first, the poor would visit wealthy homes to pastries called “soul cakes”, in exchange, the visitors would pray for the souls of the family’s deceased relatives. This was called “souling”.
In Scotland and Ireland, children would dress up in costumes, sing a song, recite a poem or perform another type of “trick” to collect a treat. Typical treats would be coins, fruit or nuts. This was called “guising”.
Naturally, the practices of souling and guising were brought to America during immigration, and Halloween was popularized in the roaring 20s (1920s). This was also a spin-off of a British holiday “Guy Fawkes Day“.
Youngsters in the 1920s were notoriously rowdy, and Halloween became a day of interest for kids to be mischievous.
Though these mischievous acts sometimes led to vandalism, physical assaults and violent tendencies, the more organized form of trick-or-treating was adopted in the 1930s in America.
Keeping tradition alive for almost 90 years now! But it’s not like it use to be.
What is Halloween today?
Thanks to mass advertisements and greed, October 31st is about the money in the USA. [Naturally]. Not that money, or capitalism is a bad thing, but let’s take a quick look at the numbers, shall we?
According to the National Retail Federation, we should see $8.8 BILLION in spending for Halloween 2019. That means, of the 327.2 million people in America, each one will spend around $24.45; that’s outstanding from a business stand-point, but it feels very consumerist.
$8.8 Billion is a lot, right? Not exactly, it’s actually down $300 Million since 2017. Also keep in mind, more than $3.2Billion of that is costumes alone [even costumes for your dogs].
More than money, Halloween is a time to bring awareness to some important topics
For years now, friendly homeowners would place “teal” colored pumpkins on their property to signal a home that is safe for children with food allergies.
This is GREAT! Bringing awareness to food allergies is important, especially since they’re so prevalent in this day and age. I personally have a friend who is allergic to raspberries. I didn’t even know such an allergy existed, if he hadn’t told me, I could have accidentally given him a baked good and caused him harm unintentionally.
So, for those of you who go out of your way to place a teal pumpkin on your doorstep, and offer treats to those kids who have food allergies… THANK YOU.
Not only that, but there’s a new trend up-and-coming.
Apparently some parents of autistic children will be giving their trick-or-treaters blue pumpkin buckets to carry this year.
These blue colored pumpkins will be a signal to home-owners that the child has autism, and therefore may not speak when they approach the door.
With all of the chaos that comes with Halloween night, all of the other children in a wild screech, hopped up on candy and the thrill of the hunt for more.
Children with autism, particularly those who are nonverbal, have to face homeowners who say “I can’t give you candy if you don’t say trick-or-treat”, and then become impatient when the child doesn’t respond, or having the parent explain at every stop why their child is not following the program.
Personally, I think the blue pumpkin awareness method is a nice gesture to an otherwise less-than-understanding world we now live in. Patience is difficult to come by, and this might be a good way to signal to homeowners ahead of time.
What’s the best way to be safe on Halloween?
Yep, I’m a dad. So, I’m going to do the “dad thing”…
Be safe out there on Halloween by reading the bullet points below.
- Stay where a parent can see you (unless you are old enough to be out on your own.. In which case, why are you trick-or-treating instead of getting a job and buying your own candy?)
- Wear a glow stick. (Don’t raise your eyebrow at me, Bob. Put on a glow stick so you’re visible).
- Be aware of cars on the road while walking in development, or residential neighborhood. Don’t depend on the drivers to see you.
- Drivers of vehicles, don’t depend on small children to make solid, intelligent decisions while walking on the road. Err on the side of caution here, you’re the adult.
- Don’t scream through the darkness like you’re being attacked… Unless YOU ARE BEING ATTACKED.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Accepting candy from strangers is kind of the whole point of Halloween, but don’t go digging into all of your candy before inspecting it with an adult. Can’t be too cautious in this crazy world anymore.
But ultimately, enjoy your ghoulish Holiday; appreciate your Harley Quinns, Pennywise, your Batmans and Robins; laugh at the dads not dressed as anything, when asked what they are supposed to be, they claim “Comfortable Man”.
Enjoy this Thursday, and thanks for reading! I appreciate all of you.