A short USA History of Halloween

Wild USA History of Halloween

In a previous blog we looked at the ancient history of Halloween and its European roots. Here we try and look at the more modern USA History of Halloween. Obviously European immigrants brought their beliefs and customs with them to N. America but many of these early settlers were religious zealots, unlikely to celebrate their pagan past. However, after 1750, there were waves of immigrants, Highland Scots fleeing from English oppression, Irish escaping famine, English looking for a better life (and trying to get away from the Scots and the Irish), plus Italian, Greek, Jewish etc.

These settlers were more inclined to use any festival as an excuse for a party. Halloween became more of a communal celebration. Borrowing from their British traditions, children would dress up in colorful costumes. It’s not until the twentieth century that we get a real sense of the USA History of Halloween. The earliest known reference to ritual Halloween begging in North America occurs only in 1911. A local Canadian newspaper near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal for children to go “street guising” on the evening of Halloween, visiting local shops and neighbors. Another isolated reference appears in 1915, with a third in Chicago in 1920. However trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s. In 1934 a Portland newspaper ran an article about how Halloween pranks had kept local police officers busy.  The first use in a national publication seems to only occur in 1939. Communities acted to participate more widely in these events to keep them safe and neighbourly. Anoka, Minnesota, which calls itself the “Halloween Capital of the World,” was the first city to officially hold a Halloween celebration. This was in 1920 and the event has grown and spread since. There were Halloween episodes on network radio programs The Baby Snooks Show in 1946, and The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948. The custom had certainly become firmly established by 1952, when Walt Disney made a Trick or Treat cartoon. With a relatively short USA History of Halloween, it has now become the second biggest festival in America in terms of consumer spend, after Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) in 2013 158 million Americans participated in Halloween activities. 43.6 percent of these planned to dress up so that total spend on children’s costumes was $1.04 billion while spend on adult Halloween costumes was $1.22 billion (maybe like our funzoo  range). And believe it or not $330 million was expected to be spent on pet costumes. $2.08 billion was the amount expected to be spent on candy and overall spending on Halloween is expected to be about $8 billion.