Sunday, August 23, 2009

History of Halloween Part 2 (1880s-1930s) The Golden Age

In the 1880s, immigrants from Europe brought their Halloween customs and traditions to the states. The first celebrations were considered "play parties" and public harvest events held in New England. The Potato Famine of 1846 brought many more immigrants, especially Irish immigrants, and helped bring Halloween celebration to the national stage. The American Halloween tradition of going door to door asking for money or food later became known as "trick or treating", a tradition that is practiced today. By the late 1880s, Halloween was more about community and neighborhood socials than about ghosts, ghouls and witchcraft. Diane C. Arkins, author of Halloween Merrymaking, describes this period as the "Golden Age" of Halloween. Arkins describes the traditional Halloween gatherings as " fun, food, and frolics served with a side of mild-manner seasonal frights." Parties during this time focused more on stylistic costumes rather than gory, bloody or horrifying costumes. Even the old Celtic beliefs of fortune telling became more of a game rather than actual future predictions. Arkins describes a popular game involving cleaning out walnut shells, filling them with a paper fortune and having guest chant "Elf that haunts the walnut tree, what has fate in store for me?" Modern Halloween traditions that originated from the Golden Age, include:
  • Parties and social gatherings
  • Invitations
  • Halloween theme food
  • Halloween theme games and decorations
  • Pumpkin carving
Pumpkin carving is an Irish-American tradition most associated with Halloween.
The story of the Jack-O'Lantern has its start from the story of Stingy Jack. Neither allowed in Heaven nor wanted by Hell, the soul of Jack travels the world with only a burning coal to guide him. The Irish called him, "Jack of the Lantern" which in turn became "Jack O'Lantern." To keep bad spirits and Stingy Jack away, people carved faces into turnips and potatoes, placed a candle inside and set them on their windowsills. The pumpkin, a native American fruit later replaced the turnip and potato of Ireland.
Arkins, Diane C. (2004) Halloween Merrymaking, an illustrated celebration of fun, food, and frolics from halloweens past
Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., Gretna, Louisiana
Halloween Pictures (2009) Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved on August 23rd, 2009 from:
History (2008) The Real Story of Halloween. A & E Television Networks.
Retrieved on August 23, 2009 from:

1 comment:

  1. this article was very informational for my English project. So thanks for the 1880's halloween info. by eugene 10th grade