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Halloween - October 31, 2014
Halloween is a tradition celebrated on the night of October 31, most notably by children dressing in costumes and going door-to-door collecting sweets, fruit, and other treats. Apart from this trick-or-treating, there are many other traditional Halloween activities. Some of these include costume parties, watching horror films, going to "haunted" houses, and traditional autumn activities such as hayrides, some of these even haunted hayrides.
Halloween originated as a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain with Irish, Scots, Welsh and other immigrants transporting versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century. Most other Western countries have embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture in the late 20th century.
Halloween is celebrated in most parts of the Western world, most commonly in the United States, Canada, the UK, Republic of Ireland, and with increasing popularity in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Philippines. In recent years, Halloween has also been celebrated in parts of Western Europe, such as Belgium, France and Spain.
The term ''Halloween'', and its older spelling Hallowe'en, is shortened from All-hallow-even, as it is the evening before "All Hallows' Day" (also known as "All Saints' Day"). The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints Day from May 13 to November 1. In Ireland, the name was All Hallows' Eve (often shortened to Hallow Eve), and though seldom used today, it is still a well-accepted label. The festival is also known as Samhain, Calan Gaeaf to the Welsh, Allantide to the Cornish and Hop-tu-Naa to the Manx. Halloween is also called ''Pooky Night'' in some parts of Ireland, presumably named after the pica, a mischievous spirit.
Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent (e.g. Catalan mythology about witches, Irish tales of the Sidhe).
Halloween in North America
Halloween did not become a holiday in America until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition meant even Christmas was scarcely observed before the 1800s. North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries make no mention of Halloween in their lists of holidays. The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine brought the holiday and its customs to America. Scottish emigration from the British Isles, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought that country's own version of the holiday to North America.
When the holiday was observed in 19th-century America, it was generally in three ways. Scottish American and Irish-American societies held dinners and balls that celebrated their heritages, with perhaps a recitation of Robert Burns' poem "Halloween" or a telling of Irish legends, much as Columbus Day celebrations were more about Italian American|Italian-American heritage than Columbus. Home parties would center around children's activities, such as bobbing for apples and various divination games, particularly about future romance. And finally, pranks and mischief were common on Halloween.
The commercialization of Halloween in America did not begin until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween postcards, which were most popular between 1905 and 1915, and featured hundreds of different designs. Dennison Manufacturing Company, which published its first Hallowe'en catalog in 1909, and the Beistle Company were pioneers in commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper items. German manufacturers specialized in Halloween figurines that were exported to America in the period between the two world wars.
There is little primary source|primary documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween in America, or elsewhere, before 1900. Mass-produced Halloween costumes did not appear in stores until the 1930s, and trick-or-treating became a fixture of the holiday in the 1950s, although commercially made masks were available earlier.
In the United States, Halloween has become the sixth most profitable holiday (after Christmas, Mother's Day, Valentines Day, Easter, and Father's Day) for retailers. In the 1990s many manufacturers began producing a larger variety of Halloween yard decorations; prior to this a majority of decorations were homemade. Some of the most popular yard decorations are jack-o'-lanterns, scarecrows, witches, orange and purple string lights, inflatable decorations such as spiders, pumpkins, mummies, vampires and other monstrous creatures, and animatronic window and door decorations. Other popular decoration are foam tombstones and gargoyles. The sale of candy and costumes are also extremely important during this time period. Halloween is marketed not just to children but also to adults. According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular Halloween costumes for adults are, in order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat, and clown. On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest October 31 hosting many costume parties.
The National Confectioners Association reported, in 2005, that 80 percent of adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters, and that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating. Anoka, Minnesota, the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World," celebrates with a large civic parade. Salem, Massachusetts, also has laid claim to the title, though Salem has tried to separate itself from its history of persecuting witchcraft. Despite that, the city does see a great deal of tourism surrounding the Salem witch trials, especially around Halloween. Nearby Keene, New Hampshire, hosts the annual Pumpkin Fest each October which previously held the record for most lit jack-o'-lanterns at one time and place.
New York City hosts the United States' largest Halloween celebration, The New York's Village Halloween Parade|Village Halloween Parade. Started by a Greenwich Village mask maker in 1973, the parade now attracts over two million spectators and participants as well as roughly four million television viewers each year. It is the largest participatory parade in the country if not the world, encouraging spectators to march in the parade as well. It is also the largest annual parade held at night.
In many towns and cities, trick-or-treaters are welcomed by lighted porch lights and jack-o'-lanterns. In some large or crime-ridden cities, however, trick-or-treating is discouraged, forbidden, or restricted to staged trick-or-treating events within one or more of the cities' shopping malls, in order to prevent potential acts of violence against trick-or-treaters. Even where crime is not an issue, many towns in the US have established specific hours where trick-or-treating is permitted, e.g. 5-7 pm or 5-8 pm, to discourage late-night trick-or-treating.
Those living in the countryside|country may hold Halloween parties, often with a bonfire or, in some years, the older Irish custom of building two bonfires, with the celebrants passing between them. These parties usually involve games (often traditional games like bobbing for apples, searching for candy in a similar manner to Easter egg hunting, or a snipe hunt), a haunted hayride (often accompanied by a scary story and one or more masked and costumed people hiding in the dark to jump out and scare the riders), and treats (usually a bag of candy and/or homemade treats). Scary movies may also be watched. Normally, the children are picked up by their parents at pre-determined times. However, it is not uncommon for these parties to include sleepovers.
Trick-or-treating may end early at night, but the nightlife thrives in many urban areas on Halloween. Halloween costume parties are also an opportunity for young adults to get together and share a keg and a good time. The local bars are also frequented by people wearing Halloween masks and risque costumes. Many bars and restaurants hold Costume Contests to attract customers to their establishment.
In areas with a large Mexican population, Halloween has often merged with celebrations of "Dia De Los Muertos", the Day of the Dead.
Further south, in Mexico, Halloween is primarily a 21st century phenomenon and also mostly confined to its largest urban areas. These celebrations have obviously been influenced by the American style and traditions which include children disguising themselves and visiting the houses of their neighbourhood in search primarily for candy. Though the "Trick or Treat" motif is also used, tricks are not generally played on those houses not giving away candy. Older crowds of teenagers and adults will sometimes organize Halloween themed parties though the observance of the Halloween party on the night of the 31st is sometimes changed for the nearest available weekend.
Halloween in Mexico also starts off three days of consecutive holidays, as it is followed by All Saint's Day and then the Day of the Dead or the "Dia de los Muertos". This might explain why some of the first explanations given to children on the holiday followed a more traditional, Catholic & Mexican theme. The explanation (which is also sometimes used by groups opposed to Halloween to discredit the holiday) is that during October 31 all of the evil spirits are welcomed into this world. Meanwhile, on November 1 all of the "saintly" spirits make a visit to this world and then on November 2 all of the spirits of those who have passed away. It is rare to find someone in Mexico that will be able to identify Halloween's primarily pagan roots and most of the population will actually give the U.S.A. credit for the holiday.
The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists, and a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious. This art generally involves death, magic, or mythical monsters. Commonly-associated Hallowe'en characters include ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, haunted houses, pumpkinmen, black cats, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, werewolves, and demons. Particularly in America, symbolism is inspired by classic horror films, which contain fictional figures like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. Homes are often decorated with these symbols around Halloween.
Black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween. In modern Halloween images and products, purple, green, and red are also prominent.
The use of these colors is largely a result of advertising for the holiday that dates back for over a century. They tend to be associated with various parts of Halloween's imagery.
Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins and scarecrows, are also reflected in symbols of Halloween.
The carved jack-o'-lantern, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols. Although there is a tradition in the British Isles of carving a lantern from a rutabaga, mangelwurzel, or turnip, the practice was first named and associated with Halloween in North America, where the pumpkin was available, and much larger and easier to carve. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their home's doorstep after dark.
Trick-or-treating and guising
The main event of modern US-style Halloween is trick-or-treating, in which children dress up in Halloween costume disguises and go door-to-door in their neighborhood, ringing each doorbell and yelling "trick or treat!" Although this resembles the older tradition of ''Trick-or-treating'' in Ireland and Scotland, ritual begging on Halloween does not appear in English-speaking America until the 20th century, and may have developed independently. The occupants of the house (who might themselves dress in a scary costume) will then hand out small candy|candies, miniature chocolate bars, and sometimes even soda pop. Some American homes will use sound effects and fog machines to help set a spooky mood. Other house decoration themes (that are less scary) are used to entertain younger visitors. Children can often accumulate many treats on Halloween night, filling up entire pillow cases or shopping bags.
In Ireland, great bonfires were lit throughout the breadth of the land. Young children in their guises were gladly received by the neighbors with some "fruit, apples and nuts and of course sweets" for the "Halloween Party", whilst older male siblings played innocent pranks on bewildered victims.
In Scotland, children or ''guisers'' are more likely to recite "The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Halloween" instead of "trick or treat!". They visit neighbours in groups and must impress the members of the houses they visit with a song, poem, trick, joke or dance in order to earn their treats. Traditionally, nuts, oranges, apples and dried fruit were offered, though sometimes children would also earn a small amount of cash, usually a sixpence. Very small children often take part, for whom the experience of performing can be more terrifying than the ghosts outside.
In England, trick or treating does take place, particularly in working class neighbourhoods. On the whole, however, it is frowned upon as at best a nuisance and at worst a menacing form of begging, and as a negative part of American global culture. In some areas households have started to put decorations on the front door to indicate 'trick-or-treaters' are welcome, the idea being that 'trick-or-treaters' don't approach a house that isn't 'participating'. Tricks play less of a role in modern Halloween, though Halloween night is often marked by vandalism such as soaping windows, egging houses or stringing toilet paper through trees. Before indoor plumbing was so widespread, tipping over or displacing outhouses was a popular form of intimidation. Casting flour into the faces of feared neighbors was also done once upon a time.
Typical Halloween costumes have traditionally been monsters such as vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils. In recent years, it has become common for costumes to be based on themes other than traditional horror, such as dressing up as a character from a TV show or film|movie, or choosing a recognizable face from the public sphere, such as a politician (in 2004, for example, George W. Bush and John Kerry were both popular costumes in America). In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, for example, costumes of, firefighters, police officers, and United States military personnel became popular. In 2004, an estimated 2.15 million children in the United States were expected to dress up as Spider-Man, the year's most popular costume.
"'Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" has become a common sight during Halloween in North America. Started as a local event in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburb in 1950, and expanded nationally in 1952, the program involves the distribution of small boxes by schools to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations from the houses they visit. It is estimated that children have collected more than $119 million (United states dollar) for UNICEF since its inception. In 2006 UNICEF discontinued their Halloween collection boxes in parts of the world, citing safety and administrative concerns.
BIGresearch conducted a survey for the National Retail Federation in the USA and found that 53.3% of consumers planned to buy a costume for Halloween 2005, spending $38.11 on average (up 10 dollars from the year before). They were also expected to spend $4.96 billion in 2006, up significantly from just $3.29 billion the previous year.
A child usually "grows out of" trick-or-treating by his or her teenage years. Trick-or-treating by teenagers is accepted, but generally discouraged with genial ribbing by those handing out candy. Teenagers and adults instead often celebrate Halloween with costume parties, bonfire parties, staying home to give out candy, listening to List of Halloween songs, watching horror movies or scaring people.
Games and other activities
There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. The most common is dooking or bobbing for apples, in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water; the participants must use their tooth|teeth to remove an apple from the basin. A variant involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity which inevitably leads to a very sticky face.
Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. In Puicíní (pronounced "pooch-eeny"), a game played in Ireland, a blindfolded person is seated in front of a table on which several saucers are placed. The saucers are shuffled and the seated person then chooses one by touch. The contents of the saucer determine the person's life for the following year. A saucer containing earth means someone known to the player will die during the next year, a saucer containing water foretells travel, a coin means new wealth, a bean means poverty, etc. In 19th-century Ireland, young women placed slugs in saucers sprinkled with flour. The wriggling of the slugs and the patterns subsequently left behind on the saucers were believed to portray the faces of the women's future spouses. An Irish and Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name. This tradition has also survived among Irish and Scottish immigrants in the rural United States.
In North America, unmarried women were frequently told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before they married, a symbols of death would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Television specials with a Halloween theme, usually aimed at children, are commonly aired on or before the holiday while new horror films are often released theatrically before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.
Visiting a haunted house or a dark attraction are other Halloween traditions. Notwithstanding the name, such events are not necessarily held in houses, nor are the edifices themselves necessarily regarded to possess actual ghosts. A variant of this is the haunted trail, where the public encounters supernatural-themed characters or presentations of scenes from horror films while following a trail through a heavily wooded area or field. One of the largest Halloween attractions in the U.S.A. is Knott's Scary Farm in California, which features re-themed amusement park rides and a dozen different walkthrough mazes, plus hundreds of costumed roving performers.
Because the holiday comes in the wake of the annual apple harvest, candy apples (also known as toffee, taffy or caramel apples) are a common treat at Halloween. They are made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, and sometimes then rolling them in nuts. At one time candy apples were a common treat given to children, but this practice rapidly waned after widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples that they would pass out to children. While there is evidence of such incidents occurring they are very rare and have never resulted in any serious injuries. Nonetheless, many parents were under the assumption that the practice was common. At the peak of this hysteria, some hospitals were offering to x-ray children's Halloween haul at no cost in order to look for such items. Almost all of the very few Halloween candy poisoning incidents on record involved parents who poisoned their own children's candy, while there are occasional reports of children sticking needles in their own candy (and that of other children) more in an effort to get attention than cause any harm. A Halloween custom which has survived unchanged to this day in Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays the purchase) of a barmbrack. This is a light fruit cake into which a plain ring is placed before baking. It is said that whoever finds this ring will find his or her true love during the following year.
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