U.S. culture (week 44): Halloween

HTP is committed to maintaining a strong cultural component of it J-1 Program and regularly publishes topics related to U.S. culture. This week, Kira Udo and Blair Robertson talk about one of America’s favorite holidays, Halloween. Boo!

This week I am going to discuss American influence on Halloween (also known as All Hallows Eve) but first a little history. It is believed that Halloween began with the Celts and their festival of Samhain. This festival was a celebration of the end of harvest season in the Gaelic culture. The ancient Gaels used  this time to prepare for winter and believed that on October 31 the barrier between the living and the dead would open up to allow the dead to come back and “haunt” the living. The Gaels would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off the evil spirits. Halloween became popular in the states in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century during a mass of Irish and Scottish migration here.

So now that you’ve had the briefest history on Halloween, how have Americans evolved the traditions?

When it comes to costumes Americans have taken it to the next level. In every major city there are local radio stations, bars, music venues, and many other places that host Halloween parties with costume contests. In addition to costume contests children dress up and go trick-or-treating in their community. American’s have capitalized on this holiday big time. Halloween is second only to Christmas in consumer sales. According to the How stuff works website, “U.S. consumers spent an average of $44 per household in 2002 on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations. Families with young children spent an average of $62. The 2002 holiday brought in about $6.9 billion in sales in the United States.” However my favorite part of Halloween is carving pumpkins. I’m not an expert but some people take this seriously.

So show us your Halloween costumes and carved pumpkins and have a fun and safe Halloween this year!

Here are some great examples of pumpkin carvings.









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