Halloween has a history that dates back before America even existed. The holiday was celebrated in the colonies, but not all of them. New England was strictly Protestant, so celebrations were limited there. Maryland and the southern colonies were the ones to celebrate the holiday the most.
The beliefs and customs of the different European groups from the colonies mixed with American Indian customs and created a new version of the holiday. Events were held for celebrating the harvest in which people would tell stories about the dead, dance and sing, and tell fortunes. Ghost stories and mischief were also a large part of the Colonial celebrations. Surprisingly, by the mid-1800s, the holiday was still not celebrated countrywide.
The second half of the 1800s brought many new immigrants and with them, Halloween was made popular all over the nation. Americans would dress up in Halloween costumes and have their own version of trick or treating, by going house to house asking for money and food. Young women believed the day was full of magic and the ability to predict their romantic future, so they participated in many different traditions to tell them who they would marry and if they would be lucky in love.
The late 1800s and turn of the century saw a change that made Halloween into a community holiday that was more about parties. The parties had games, food, and costumes. Parents were told to remove everything that could be potentially scary or gross out of the celebrations of the holidays. For this reason, the holiday lost almost all of its superstitions and original purpose by the 1900s.
By the 1920s, Halloween was secular and community wide. The middle of the 20th century brought another change in the holiday. It soon became a holiday mainly for children, instead of the entire community. Trick or treating made a comeback in the 1950s and families hoped to prevent tricks being played on them by giving children treats. Thus, the holiday that we celebrate today was formed. Now, Americans spend at least $6 billion on the holiday every year. It is second only to Christmas.
Yes, Halloween looked much different when it was started. The holiday that we know and love hasn’t been around much longer than half a century, yet it seems like it was always celebrated this way. The holiday is no longer full of superstitions and religious traditions, but it is still a fun filled day of celebration.