Halloween: An American Tradition with Immigrant Roots

Filed in American Culture by on October 31, 2014 0 Comments

Photo by Paul.

On October 31, Americans celebrate Halloween and pretend that ghosts and goblins are in the air, where candy is prevalent, and everyone can dress up as their favorite character.

Walk around any neighborhood or block of stores and you are likely to see Halloween decorations and advertisements for special events.  Don’t let the ghosts, and spiders, and strange faced pumpkins fool you—or scare you—Halloween is all about entertainment and also highlights the impact of immigrants in the U.S.

Irish and English immigrants brought the Halloween trick-or-treating tradition to America in the 1800’s, although its original form was quite different from what we see today. Originally, Irish and English immigrants would go door-to-door offering to pray for those who had passed away in exchange for candy on All Hallows Eve. Today, trick-or-treating is when small children dress up in costume and go door-to-door asking for candy.

You can join in this fun very easily.  Here’s a few ways Americans get into the spirit of Halloween this weekend:

  • Go with a friend to a pumpkin patch—there are many farms that allow you to pick your own pumpkin and enjoy activities and food at the same time. Even simpler, pick up a pumpkin at the grocery store.  You can carve a traditional scary face, or just draw it on with a black marker.
  • Dress up.   You can make simple costumes from what you already have or visit a thrift store for inexpensive items or used costumes.  Put on a goofy hat or fake eyeglasses or an ugly t-shirt and you are good to go!  Some people even dress up for work that day—but check with your colleagues first!
  • Accompany friends with children as they trick or treat.  Small children walk their neighborhoods at dusk and knock on doors, yell trick or treat, and get candy.  There’s never a trick—just treats.  It is fun to watch and an easy way to see all the scary decorations people put up.
  • If you’re looking for a scare this Halloween weekend, find a haunted attraction in your area.

Are you participating in any Halloween activities? Let us know in the comments section below.