Halloween is celebrated on Oct. 31 in the U.S, and is generally a time for trick-or-treating for children and costume parties for adults. Several of the more popular Halloween traditions have changed over the years since being brought to the U.S. by Irish immigrants long ago.
Halloween has its origins in the Celtic culture, and the folklore associated with the customs are sometimes viewed as Pagan in nature. Initially designed as a celebration of the harvest, this sometimes dark holiday was generally dismissed by Christian believers as an attempt to summon long gone spirits of the past, while they believed in the celebration of the harvest. In this country Americans usually observe Thanksgiving as the harvest celebration, and Halloween as a time for trick-or-treating for children, and watching horror movies and going to costume parties for young adults. Similar to Christmas, Halloween has become ultra-commercial in nature, with candy sales skyrocketing along with costume sales and rentals, and movie rentals.
Haunted houses are a staple of the holiday, and this tradition emerged in the late 20th century. Children, teenagers and young adults drive the entertainment industry in the U.S., and with it, revenue. Halloween traditions have changed because of that fact. Around this time every year pumpkin patches are extremely popular as well, with custom Jack-O-Lantern carvings being offered by artists. The Circus Circus Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip transforms its Adventure Dome theme park each year from late September through early November into a haunted house called the Fright Dome.
The Celtic harvest festivals of old transformed into All Hallows Eve at some point, and a new All Hallows Eve tradition was created whereby poor people would go door-to-door and offer to say a prayer for the dearly departed, on the night prior to All Hallows Eve. These do-gooders were rewarded with food and other items in exchange for the opportunity to have their deceased relatives remembered kindly. Revelers would chant supplications to the gods, in an effort to ease the feeling of homeowners missing their loved ones.
This tradition evolved even further, when sometime in the 1800s, Irish immigrants to the U.S. began the practice here in America. The custom morphed to some degree, and instead of praying for a particular family’s descendants if a treat was not offered, a trick would then be executed on the offending party. Even the perceived threat of a trick or some other form of hooliganism was designed to elicit a positive response from the homeowner, allowing the reveller to receive a treat.
The practice evolved even further in the ’60s and ’70s, as Hollywood began marketing the watching of horror movies as a Halloween tradition. Now some of the most watched horror movies of all time are George A. Romero’s Night of The Living Dead, Halloween, Friday The Thirteenth and A Nightmare on Elm Street. These horror movies are generally presented as a marathon, with multiple movies being shown back-to-back. Halloween traditions have been changing for many years now, since their beginnings back in the early 1700s.
By Jim Donahue
IMDb – Halloween
IMDb – Friday The 13th
IMDb – Night of The Living Dead
IMDb – A Nightmare on Elm Street
Medical Journal of Australia
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