Reyne Guage – History of Halloween by Reyne Haines

October 4th, 2010 by

Photo courtesy of Skidstuff

You might find it hard to believe that Halloween is not another “Hallmark” holiday made to create millions of dollars in commercial candy, card and costume sales.

Also, Halloween wasn’t founded in America.  The Irish and the Scottish immigrants carried their versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century.  Soon to follow would be Canada, Ireland, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.

Halloween was originally called  “Samhain” which was the name of an ancient Celtic festival that celebrated the end of the harvest season and the preparation of winter.

It was believed that on October 31st, the worlds of the living and the dead would cross and the dead would come back to life and spread sickness to the living and damage their crops.  During the festival, people wore masks to keep the evil spirits at bay.

Photo courtesy of Skidstuff

Fast forward to the 20th century where the art of “trick or treating” came to play during Halloween.  Children in costumes knocked on doors asking the homeowner that simple question; “Trick or Treat?”  The trick part happened to those who did not answer the door, or did with no treats. Tricks played by kids in America often involved egging someone’s home, or wrapping their yard in toilet paper. In the United Kingdom, the police often been called out because of the severity of the “tricks” the children play. The term “Trick or Treat” first appeared in print in 1934.

In states such as Iowa, Ohio and Massachusetts, Halloween is also known as Beggars Night because children go door to door begging for treats.

The act of dressing up and begging door to door actually extends as far back as the Middle Ages when the poor would go knocking on doors on Hallowmas (November 1st).  They would receive food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd).

Halloween was also known as “All Hallows Eve.” It was one of four, and the most powerful, holy days throughout the year when spirits could walk the earth and communicate with the living.

Before the commercial world joined in, children would beg door to door for treats, but the treats were not wrapped sweets like we know today. They would receive nuts and homemade candies.

Phot courtesy of Longbrook Antiques

Today, the Halloween capital of the world is Anoka, Minnesota.  In 1920, they were the first city to hold a Halloween celebration in effort to prevent kids from pulling pranks around town.  The town put together a parade to keep the kids busy and the kids that participated in the parade were rewarded with candy and popcorn.  Since that time, the city has continued the annual parade and festivities, with the exception of 1942 and 1943 due to the war.

On a final note, Halloween is the 2nd largest commercial holiday in the US.  Surprisingly it beats out Valentine’s Day with $6.9 billion dollars in commercials sales (and growing) each year.

4 Responses to “Reyne Guage – History of Halloween by Reyne Haines”

  1. Marko Says:

    Hi Reyne,

    I’ll tell you a few words what I think of Halloween celebration and what kind a celebration it is in Finland.

    In the Usa, Halloween is probably an important and wonderful celebration.I believe so.
    I had the honor to be on vacation in Usa.My holiday was 10 days and I noticed that the shops had a lot of Halloween stuff.They looked great and I would have liked to stay to see this fun celebration, but I had to go back to Finland before this celebration.

    “trick or treat” = “karkki vai kepponen” a saying which is well known in Finland.

    Celebration is probably the world-wide, but I think it is not a Finnish celebration.
    Simply put, we do not know celebrate this feast.It just does not fit the Finnish culture.
    We’re so damn literal nation. ( I am not a literal)

    My memory of this celebration:

    My best memories of this celebration is from school time when I was a child.
    In my school was organized halloween disco. We were dress up in fun outfits.
    There was also a horror tunnel, which was the terrible things. witches, bats, etc.

    Guess what??? I got my first kiss in such tunnel.There was a dark and exciting……oh! it was horrible thing :-) but I love it!

    I wish for you a horrible Halloween celebration and I ask you….hmmm.
    Reyne….trick or treat ?

    Marko :-)

  2. Reyne Haines Says:

    Marko – Thank you for sharing.
    Oooh your first kiss. I can only imagine that was a little scary!

    When I was a little girl, we loved going trick or treating in the neighborhood. We came home with BAGS of candy and we’d pour the candy on the floor and trade all night long with our friends.

    Then a horrible thing happened. Someone put a needle in an apple, and from that point on, Halloween changed forever.

    To this day, I still love to dress up, decorate the house and hand out candy to the kids.
    But I must admit, I still have a “trick” or two up my sleeve.

    Happy Halloween!


  3. Marko Says:

    Thanks Reyne!

    I loved this answer.
    I would really have liked to see the right Halloween party.
    Maybe I’ll come next year to look at.

    Reyne, What is your scariest Halloween experience or do you have only good memories?

    First kiss….It was such a terrible experience !!Today I do not dare to kiss at all :-)
    Traumatic experience!!


  4. Reyne Haines Says:

    My scariest Halloween was when I was around 8 or 9 yrs old
    and I went to a sleepover.
    We played Bloody Mary at midnight and I was so scared I couldn’t sleep for days.

    Bloody Mary is when you go into the bathroom at midnight
    with the lights off and look into the mirror chanting “Bloody Mary”
    10 times and supposedly a face will appear in the mirror (Bloody Mary)
    Well, little girls with big imaginations…you can imagine..

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