History of Halloween…
Halloween is full of ghosts and ghouls, vampires and witches and everything in between! Looking back at this shot above from the 1950’s these traditions surely have not changed as kids trick-or-treated in Manchester, collecting candy on October 31st each year. But why do we dress up as spooky characters and go from house to house loading up on candy? Keep reading to find out how these spooky traditions came about!
Origin of Halloween
With the influx of immigrants in the late 19th century, Halloween became even more of a prominent event as the Irish settle in America. The Irish were the first to celebrate on October 31st dating over 2,000 years ago, with their ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. This festival marks the beginning of winter which for many, at the time, meant death. They believed that on this day the ghosts of the dead would emerge. Large fires would be lit and the Irish would dress in costume to sacrifice animals to rid any bad spirits, which is where scary costumes made their first debut!
The Irish would cut out designs in potatoes, gourds and even beets, placing a candle inside to ward off evil spirits such as Stingy Jack who was known for playing games with the devil. When this tradition came to America, pumpkins began being used as they are native to this country! This is why the Jack-o-lanterns have been a large part of Halloween, warding off Stingy Jack and his evil spirits from the home!
Halloween in America
As colonists began to settle in the New England areas, October 31st was considered a day to celebrate the end of the harvesting season with friends, families and neighbors by dancing, singing, telling ghost stories and even stories of the dead. These sort of gatherings were called “play parties” as people often would dress in costume. The photo above is of a Halloween party in Manchester, dating back to the 1920’s!
Taking the tradition from the Irish and English, American children began to dress up in costumes and go door-to-door asking for food or money in the 19th century. This tradition eventually lead to what we know now as trick-or-treating! As the time went on leaders in America started to encourage parents to get rid of the ghosts and witchcraft aspect of Halloween and make it into a community based holiday. With this, Halloween had transformed completely in America into a holiday focused on children, games and dress-up and less of the rising of the dead, haunted ghost stories and the end of the harvest season.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s Halloween parties were very popular with food, games and costumes of course! This tradition carried into the 1950’s and even now! America as a whole loves Halloween, making it the second largest commercial holiday, after Christmas, spending an average of $6 billion annually! Impressive!
From all of us at Intown Manchester, we wish you a safe and fun Halloween! We appreciate the great photos from the Manchester Historic Society, and the information from History.com!
Looking for Halloween events in the downtown? Check out the ‘Around Downtown’ section of our blog for a list of spooky Halloween events coming up!
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