Halloween Traditions: Then and Now

Halloween (short for “All Hallows Eve”) isn’t a holiday that is celebrated in all cultures. It is celebrated mostly in western cultures such as Ireland, the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31st. People who rejoice in this holiday often do so with traditions like trick-or-treating, costume parties, bonfires, attending “haunted houses”, consuming candy, and carving jack-o-lanterns. These traditions were carried over from mostly Irish and Scottish immigrants.

One Halloween tradition that spans most urban legends, countries, and historical facts are the act of dressing-up in costume and masks. In the past, it was said that these masks were supposed to scare off evil spirits. However, modern day costumes vary from “scary” creatures to heroic figures depending on the person’s preference.

Children who dress in costume will often go “trick-or-treating” (an activity that dates back to 1911). Kids will go from door to door and beg for treats, reciting the phrase “trick or treat!” The homeowner will drop a Halloween treat (usually candy) in the children’s bag, and the children will move on to the next house.

Another Halloween tradition is to have a festival involving a bonfire. This tradition is from the Celtic culture which believed that the fire would attract insects, which would attract bats to the area. This was essential to their beliefs that the boundaries between the living and dead overlapped on the night of October 31st.

A more modern Halloween tradition is to celebrate the night at a costume party. Attendees would dress in various costumes and visit friends. These parties would consist of activities like costume contest, bobbing for apples (where people dip their head in a barrel filled with water and try to grasp a bobbing apple with only their teeth), watching scary movies, and reciting scary stories.

Carving jack-o-lanterns is another Halloween tradition. It consists of gutting a pumpkin and carving a ghoulish face on the front. Afterwards, it is illuminated with a candle (which is placed on the inside of the pumpkin) and set outside to entertain people who pass by.

Although this holiday is celebrated with happiness and glee, some cultures are offended by the demonic and scary creatures that are portrayed in Halloween festivities. The background of this holiday is shrouded in mystery and folklore, but in the end the final decision rests with you. Whether or not you choose to celebrate this holiday by celebrating those who have passed on, worshiping the harvest season (like in the Gaelic culture), or using it as an excuse to have a costume party with your friends depends solely your beliefs.

If you do choose to celebrate this festive holiday this year, try some of these traditions with your family and friends. You can pick out a fancy Halloween masquerade mask and ball gown or dress up like your favorite superhero. Remember, the main idea of modern day Halloween celebrations is to have fun with your loved ones and enjoy some tasty treats.

Leave a Reply