Halloween in the United States


Photo credit: Grace Walls (’17)

Have you ever stopped in your tracks while trick or treating to wonder “why am I doing this?” Well the short answer is, religion.  While modern Halloween may seem relatively secular, it was first called  Samhain, a festival celebrated by the Celts in England and Ireland. The Celts celebrated Samhain on November first because that was when the new year was thought to begin. People believed that in addition to marking the new year, Samhain also marked the start of winter. Animals were brought in from the pasture and leases were renewed. Spirits were thought to return from the afterlife to visit their homes on earth. To celebrate this, many people lit bonfires atop hills to scare away any evil spirits that might be lurking in the shadows. After the Ancient Romans took control of the UK, they added the holiday Feralia which celebrated the dead and the goddess of the harvest. In hopes to permeate the pagan tradition with Christian themes. Pope Boniface IV established All Saints Day which celebrated all of the saints who transcended into heaven (thus the name All Saints Day). Halloween was originally outlawed in the American colonies, but when Irish immigrants started to flow in during the mid-19th century, they brought with them their Halloween costumes and started integrating it with the culture of the United States (Britannica).  

But what makes it special? According to a Berkeley Carroll freshperson, a lot: “the rules are kinda thrown out the window.  Because everyone’s in costume they’re more free to be themselves. When you go out in costume, you’re not caring about what other people are wearing. Even though they’re all in masks, people are still expressing themselves and their interests. Social rules are thrown out the window and you find yourself talking to people you would never have talked to.” However, not everyone is enamored with the holiday. “The only thing I actually like about [Halloween] is the three dollar Chipotle burritos” says another Freshperson.  

Now, speaking of food, a classic Halloween staple is candy.  On October 31st, it seems to be everywhere you look! But what is the most common halloween candy? A recent Influenster poll says, Reese’s! Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are one of three candies (the other two being Kit Kats and Butterfingers) to be consistently ranked number one in national polls.  However, favorite Halloween candy varies by state. For example, Ohio’s favorite candy is Twix, but New Hampshire’s is Tootsie Rolls.

No matter how you look at it, Halloween has certainly become a Western staple that has drastically changed from it’s humble roots.