Skip to main content
Select Source:

Halloween

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN. Halloween (also Hallowe'en) is thought to have derived from a pre-Christian festival known as Samhain (pronounced "Sah-wen") celebrated among the Celtic peoples. The various peoples whom we now refer to as "Celts" once lived across Europe, but in time came to inhabit the areas known today as Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, and Cornwall. Modern Irish, Welsh, and Scots peoples are the descendants of these peoples, as are their Gaelic languages.

History

Samhain was the principal feast day of the year; it was the New Year's Day of a year that began on 1 November. Traditionally, bonfires were lit as part of the celebration. It was believed that the spirits of those who had died during the previous twelve months were granted access into the otherworld during Samhain. Thus, spirits were said to be traveling on that evening, as the Celtic day was counted from sundown to sundown.

Scholars know little about the actual practices and beliefs associated with Samhain. Most accounts were not written down until centuries after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity (c. 300 C.E.), and then by Christian monks recording ancient sagas. From the evidence, we know that Samhain was a focal point of the yearly cycle, and that traditions of leaving out offerings of food and drink to comfort the wandering spirits had joined the bonfire custom. Also, the tradition of mummingdressing in disguise and performing from home to home in exchange for food or drink, as well as pranking, perhaps in imitation of the wandering spirits, or simply as a customary activity found throughout Europehad become part of the occasion. With the acceptance of Christianity, the dates of the pre-Christian festivals were used as occasions for church feast and holy days. The first day of November became, in the sixth century, the Feast of All Saints, or All Hallows. Many of the folk traditions surrounding this occasion continued, and the Eve of All Hallows, Hallow Evening, has become conflated into the word "Hallowe'en." In the ninth century, 2 November was assigned the Feast of All Souls, a day set aside for prayers for all the faithful departed who had died during the previous year.

Halloween was brought to North America with Irish and British colonists, although it was not widely observed until the large influx of European immigrants in the nineteenth century, especially the Irish fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s and thereafter. In the United States, Hallowe'en, celebrated on 31 October, was a time for parties and pranking. As a festival of autumn, the fruits, vegetables, and foods associated with it are those of the harvest. Games were and are still played with apples, and the primary symbol of Halloween is the jack-o'-lantern, the great, carved pumpkin. Likewise, both apple pie and pumpkin pie are commonly served.

Samhain in Ireland

In Ireland, however, Halloween is much more a harvest festival than it is in the United States, where Thanksgiving has become the official day of thanks for abundance. As Samhain, November Eve was one of the four great quarter days of the year, each one marking the beginning of a new season. Samhain also marked the start of a new year. Halloween commands a place of honor in Ireland today greater than in the United States. And in fact it functions much like Thanksgiving does here. Family meals and a gathering of relatives are common. There is pranking throughout the season, and Halloween rhyming, in which young people go from door to door for weeks in advance of 31 October, present a rhyme or perform a song of some sort, in return for nuts, apples, or money. The money is spent on fireworks. Also well in advance of the actual day, lanterns are carved out of large turnips, called swedes, or rutabegas in the United States. These are given a face and a handle, and are carried about or set on walls to create a spooky atmosphere. When the old tradition of the turnip lantern was brought to the new world, settlers found the already hollow pumpkin to be preferable to the hard turnip, and so the pumpkin replaced the turnip in the United States. But the pumpkin is a fruit introduced to Europeans by Native Americans and is not native to Ireland, Great Britain, or the rest of Europe.

By carving a face on a turnip or a pumpkin, one transforms the organic item into a cultural one. The jack-o'-lantern is the wandering spirit of a man who was refused entry into either heaven or hell in the afterlife. He is condemned to wander this earth, carrying a lantern to guide his way. He is a trickster; he will lead hapless souls who follow his light to no good. The turnip lantern is said to represent the spirits of the deadghosts. The organic items are made to reference the supernatural. Also, they are turned into another kind of cultural item: food. Pumpkin pies and mashed turnips are foods of the season, and represent domestic aspects of Halloween. The wild, unpredictable outside and the safe, nuturing inside are two poles of this festival. Halloween combines danger and safety, as when trick-or-treaters in the United States are invited in for cider and doughnuts. In Ireland, the inversive elements usually precede the day itself, which is given over to parties, special meals, and traditional games. These games are often played with the seasonal foods, such as dunking for apples, but they are also used in a playful way as divination games. For instance, Halloween in Ireland is also known as Nut Crack Night, because a common game is to place two nuts together near the hearth, name them for an adolescent or courting couple, then see what the effect of the heat is on the nuts. If they explode and pop away from each other, their relationship is doomed.

Divination and Halloween food come together in the apple tarts (pies) and the cakes known as barm brack. Barm brack means speckled bread. It is a corn loaf, and it is baked with tokens inside, usually a ring, but also a thimble, or a button. To get the ring means you will be married; the button suggests bachelorhood for a man, and a thimble, spinsterhood for a woman. There may be other tokens as well. The apple tart is also baked with charms, usually a coin (preferably silver). This means good luck for the recipient. These food customs are widespread in Irelandone sees the bakeshops advertising their apple tarts and barm bracks "with rings and mottoes." Likewise, in the supermarkets, quantities of apples, hazelnuts, peanuts in the shell (called monkeynuts), and even coconuts are displayed alongside soft drinks and false faces.

Many are the divination games and rites of Halloween. It is said, for instance, that one should peel an apple continuously, so that the peel is in one long piece, and then toss it over one's left shoulder. The peel will land and form the initial of one's future love. Typically, these games are played by girls, to whom the indoor, domestic, nurturing realm is given, while the adolescent boys collect bonfire materials and engage in games of macho daring with firecrackers. Halloween is in these ways very gendered.

According to some accounts, the Halloween supper has featured a roast fowl or even meat, but as the day before a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, Halloween has traditionally been a day of abstinence from meat. The dishes most associated with Halloween in Irelandcolcannon, champ, and boxtyare all made from root vegetables and earthy harvests such as potatoes and cabbage. Champ is mashed potatoes, frequently with leeks, and served with a pool of melted butter in the top. Colcannon is potatoes and cabbage. Boxty is mashed potatoes mixed with grated raw potatoes, onion, and cabbage, which are then boiled, cut into portions and fried.

These traditional foods are emblematic of Halloween for many in Ireland. Sometimes, portions were left out for the fairies. In an article published in 1958, K. M. Harris quotes a man who recalls his mother putting salt on the head of each child to prevent them from being taken away by the "wee people" on Halloween. He also recounts her placing a thimble-full of salt on each plate. If the salt fell down that person would die in the next twelve months. These beliefs indicate the continued association of food with the supernatural, and perhaps echo the "old" new year's day of Samhain in the idea that what happens on this night affects the next twelve months.

Periods of transition and seasonal change frequently are felt to be times when the barriers between the natural and the supernaturalbetween our world and the otherworldare opened. During such times, spirits and otherworldly creatures such as fairies are especially active. They are dangerous and must be appeased; thus the offerings of food. But they are also tricksters, and can be imitated, thus lending an air of inversion to Halloween.

Halloween in the United States

In the United States, 31 October has become a major celebration that appeals to adults as well as children, as shown by the elaborate homemade and store-bought decorations people use to decorate their homes, and also by the adult street festivals, masquerades, and parties found all over the United States. Commercially, Halloween has become second only to Christmas in the amount of revenue it generates.

Ironically, by the mid-twentieth century, Halloween in the United States had become almost exclusively a children's event. The custom of trick-or-treating (the American version of Halloween rhyming) seems to have been introduced in the 1930s as an alternative to the children's pranking activitiessometimes dangerous, such as logs in the road; always a nuisance (Tuleja, 1994). Trick-ortreating became a widespread activity after World War II. While treats could include apples and homemade sweets, the favored treat was commercially produced candy. In the United States, then, Halloween has always reflected the commercial culture of capitalism. Apocryphal stories known as "urban legends" have circulated about poisoned treats and apples with razor blades hidden in them. While there has been no substantial verification of the stories, the belief is widespread. The result is that homemade treats and natural fruits are looked at suspiciouslymany communities offer Halloween treat X-raying services. Now so more than ever, the commer cially produced sweet is preferred (Ellis, 1994).

By the late twentieth century, as the generation that had enjoyed Halloween as children became adults, the holiday returned to being one in which different age groups engaged. College students hosted large costume parties. Cities such as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco had major street festivals. As a day of public costuming and inversion, a time when people confronted images of the taboorepresentations of death, evil, and chaos, Halloween had long been used by the gay population as a "safe" time to parade in drag, to publicly display an identity that they must keep hidden the rest of the year. By the end of the twentieth century, the rest of the population joined them to create a kind of national Mardi Gras. Unlike the actual Fat Tuesday, however, this carnival is in the autumn, and it combines seasonal images of the harvest with images of human death (ghosts and skeletons) as well as other unspeakables. Halloween is a time when it is safe to play with our fears, to allow our demons to come out from under the bed and take center stage once a year.

See also British Isles, subentries on England and Ireland ; Christianity ; Day of the Dead ; Feasts, Festivals, and Fasts ; Holidays ; Shrove Tuesday.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ellis, Bill. "'Safe' Spooks: New Hallowe'en Traditions in Response to Sadism Legends." In Hallowe'en and Other Festivals of Death and Life, edited by Jack Jack Santino, pp. 2444. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Harris, K. M. "Extracts from the Committee's Collection." Ulster Folklife 4 (1958): 3749.

Santino, Jack. All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Santino, Jack, ed. Hallowe'en and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Santino, Jack. The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival in Northern Ireland. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1998.

Tuleja, Tad. "Trick or Treat: Pre-texts and Contexts." In Hallowe'en and Other Festivals of Death and Life, edited by Jack Santino, pp. 82102. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Jack Santino

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/food/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/food/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Halloween


The history of Halloween began with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the last day of the Celtic year. The holiday was celebrated at the end of summer and the beginning of winter, as days became shorter and nights longer. The Celts believed that the dead returned on Samhain, and they created traditions to keep themselves safe from evil spirits, including dressing up in costume to fool the dead.

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church appropriated the Celtic festival of Samhain with the express purpose of absorbing pagan celebrations into the Christian cycle of holidays. The resulting All Saints' Day was officially moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory III in the eighth century. Also called All Hallows, the night before became known as All Hallows Eve, which later became Hallowe'en, and finally Halloween.

Other traditions contributed to the evolution of Halloween as an American holiday. The historian Lesley Bannatyne refers to Protestant English settlers of the eighteenth century importing the tradition of Guy Fawkes Day. Cited by numerous authors as a source for Halloween, celebrations of this holiday often took on an anti-Catholic theme, with celebrants burning effigies of the Pope as well as other major contemporary figures. The holiday began in 1605, when English Protestants foiled a plot by Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Celebrations also included pranks, masquerades, bonfires, and fireworks.

However, the Protestants, a large, influential group, frowned upon Halloween celebrations, effectively stopping any systematic observation of the festival in the United States until the nineteenth century. Elements of the European folk holiday remained, however. After the American Revolution, "play parties" became popular in the form of harvest celebrations for families.

Halloween evolved into a holiday for children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as less frightening entertainments replaced commemorations of the dead. A large amount of printed ephemera about and for Halloween was produced at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, specifically for children. The earliest examples of this new genre were made by the lithographer Raphael Tuck, also known for the manufacture of paper dolls. The first quarter of the twentieth century also heralded the rise of businesses manufacturing products specifically for Halloween. Today Halloween is a major consumer holiday second in gross revenues only to Christmas.

Trick-or-treating, which began as a Thanksgiving tradition as early as 1881, became a major Halloween ritual in the 1920s. The phrase itself was first published in 1939 and has been used ever since. The "open house" tradition of welcoming trick-or-treaters (especially small children) became increasingly widespread in the 1930s.

For children Halloween is also traditionally an occasion to explore boundaries, often breaking rules or bypassing parental authority (whether symbolic or actual). In the past as in the present, this aspect of the holiday was often negative. By the 1930s the tradition of committing acts of vandalism on Halloween was a major concern of adults. Schools and civic groups across the country organized celebrations for children and teenagers in an effort to curb vandalism, a tradition that continues. Today Halloween is still a holiday primarily for children, which still includes age-old traditions such as dressing up in costumes and frightening masks and requesting candy favors.

See also: Parades; Vacations.

bibliography

Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt. 1990. Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History. New York: Facts on File.

Sklar, David J. 2002. Death Makes A Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury.

Shira Silverman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Halloween (hăl´əwēn´, häl´–), Oct. 31, the eve of All Saints' Day, observed with traditional games and customs. The word comes from medieval England's All Hallows' eve [Old Eng. hallow=saint]. However, many of these customs predate Christianity, going back to Celtic practices associated with Nov. 1, which was Samhain (sä´wĬn), the beginning of winter and the Celtic new year. Witches and other evil spirits were believed to roam the earth on this evening, playing tricks on human beings to mark the season of diminishing sunlight. Bonfires were lit, offerings were made of dainty foods and sweets, and people would disguise themselves as one of the roaming spirits, to avoid demonic persecution. Survivals of these early practices can be found in countries of Celtic influence today, such as the United States where children go from door to door in costumes demanding "trick or treat."

See N. Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (2002), D. J. Skal, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (2002).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

"Halloween." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Halloween the night of 31 October, the eve of All Saints' Day. Halloween is of pre-Christian origin, being associated with the Celtic festival Samhain, when ghosts and spirits were thought to be abroad. Adopted as a Christian festival, it gradually became a secular rather than a Christian observance, involving dressing up and the wearing of masks. These secular customs were popularized in the US in the late 19th century and later developed into the custom of children playing trick or treat.

The name is recorded from the late 18th century, and is a contraction of All Hallows Even ‘All Saints Eve’; hallow here means a holy person or saint.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween

"Halloween." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Halloween or All Hallows Eve. A Christian festival on 31st Oct., the evening before All Saints, 1 Nov. It absorbed and adopted the Celtic new year festival, the eve and day of Samhain; as such, it was a time of reversals associated with liminality (see RITES OF PASSAGES), and much of this character has persisted in the now secularized customs associated with Halloween, especially in the USA.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween

"Halloween." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Hallowe'en (hallowed or holy evening) In medieval times, a holy festival observed on October 31, the eve of All Saints' Day. It merged with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the beginning of the Celtic year. This was the occasion when fires were lit to frighten away evil spirits and to guide the souls of the dead who were supposed to revisit their homes on this day.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

"Halloween." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Hal·low·een / ˌhaləˈwēn; ˌhälə-; -ōˈēn/ (also Hal·low·e'en) • n. the night of October 31, the eve of All Saints' Day, commonly celebrated by children who dress in costume and solicit candy or other treats door-to-door.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween-1

"Halloween." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

HalloweenAberdeen, Amin, aquamarine, baleen, bean, been, beguine, Benin, between, canteen, careen, Claudine, clean, contravene, convene, cuisine, dean, Dene, e'en, eighteen, fascine, fedayeen, fifteen, figurine, foreseen, fourteen, Francine, gean, gene, glean, gombeen, green, Greene, Halloween, intervene, Janine, Jean, Jeannine, Jolene, Kean, keen, Keene, Ladin, langoustine, latrine, lean, limousine, machine, Maclean, magazine, Malines, margarine, marine, Mascarene, Massine, Maxine, mean, Medellín, mesne, mien, Moline, moreen, mujahedin, Nadine, nankeen, Nazarene, Nene, nineteen, nougatine, obscene, palanquin, peen, poteen, preen, quean, queen, Rabin, Racine, ramin, ravine, routine, Sabine, saltine, sardine, sarin, sateen, scene, screen, seen, serene, seventeen, shagreen, shebeen, sheen, sixteen, spleen, spring-clean, squireen, Steen, submarine, supervene, tambourine, tangerine, teen, terrine, thirteen, transmarine, treen, tureen, Tyrrhene, ultramarine, umpteen, velveteen, wean, ween, Wheen, yean •soybean • buckbean

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween-0

"Halloween." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halloween-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN , or Allhallows Eve, is a festival celebrated on October 31, the evening prior to the Christian Feast of All Saints (All Saints' Day). Halloween is the name for the eve of Samhain, a celebration marking the beginning of winter as well as the first day of the New Year within the ancient Celtic culture of the British Isles. The time of Samhain consisted of the eve of the feast and the day itself (October 31 and November 1). This event was a crucial seam in the social and religious fabric of the Celtic year, and the eve of Samhain set the tone for the annual celebration as a threatening, fantastic, mysterious rite of passage to a new year.

The religious beliefs of the Celts emphasized pastoral deities, and Celtic festivals stressed seasonal transitions. Beltene, the beginning of summer, was celebrated at the end of April and the beginning of May. Samhain signaled the commencement of winter and, together with Beltene, divided the year into cold and hot seasons. Samhain marked the end of preparations for winter, when flocks and herds had been secured and harvested crops had been stored.

The eve of this festival brought with it another kind of harvest. On this occasion, it was believed that a gathering of supernatural forces occurred as during no other period of the year. The eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken. Otherworldly entities, such as the souls of the dead, were able to visit earthly inhabitants, and humans could take the opportunity to penetrate the domains of the gods and supernatural creatures. Fiery tributes and sacrifices of animals, crops, and possibly human beings were made to appease supernatural powers who controlled the fertility of the land. Not a festival honoring any particular Celtic deity, Samhain acknowledged the entire spectrum of nonhuman forces that roamed the earth during that period.

Given the upheaval of normal human activities and expectations on the eve and day of Samhain, it was also thought to be an especially propitious time for ascertaining information about the future course of one's life. Various methods of divination were used by individuals attempting to discover their fortunes, good or ill, and to foretell events such as marriage, sickness, or death.

Samhain remained a popular festival among the Celtic people throughout the Christianization of Great Britain. The British church attempted to divert this interest in pagan customs by adding a Christian celebration to the calendar on the same date as Samhain. The Christian festival, the Feast of All Saints, commemorates the known and unknown saints of the Christian religion just as Samhain had acknowledged and paid tribute to the Celtic deities. The eve of the Celtic festival was also Christianized, becoming the Vigil of All Saints or Allhallows Eve (with special offices existing in both the Anglican and Roman churches). The medieval British commemoration of All Saints' Day may have prompted the universal celebration of this feast throughout the Christian church.

The customs of Samhain survived independently of the Christian holy day. Gradually, the eve of Allhallows (Halloween) lost much of its Celtic religious significance for the masses, and it became a secular observance, although many traditionally Celtic ideas continued to be associated with the evening. Divination activities remained a popular practice. Adults, dressed in fantastic disguises and masks, imitated supernatural beings and visited homes where occupants would offer tributes of food and drink to them. A fear of nocturnal creatures, such as bats and owls, persisted, because these animals were believed to communicate with the spirits of the dead.

Halloween was celebrated only in the Celtic areas of Great Britain: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and northern rural England. In non-Celtic England, many of the customs of Halloween were assimilated into a commemorative festival that arose in the seventeenth century as the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day (November 5). English Protestant settlers in the New World did not bring the custom of Halloween with them. Irish and Scottish immigrants introduced scattered Allhallows Eve observances to America, but it was only in the years after the massive immigration of the Irish to the United States during the potato famine (18451846) that Halloween became a national event.

Modern Halloween activities have centered on mischief making and masquerading in costumes, often resembling otherworldly characters. Folk customs, now treated as games (such as bobbing for apples), have continued from the various divination practices of the ancient celebrants of this occasion. Supernatural figures (such as the ghost, the witch, the vampire, the devil) play a key role in supplying an aura of the mysterious to the evening, whether or not they originally had an association with the festival. Children are particularly susceptible to the imagery of Halloween, as can be seen in their fascination with the demonic likeness of a carved and illuminated pumpkin, known as the jack-o'-lantern. In recent times, children have taken up the practice of dressing in Halloween costumes and visiting homes in search of edible and monetary treats, lightly threatening to play a trick on the owner if a treat is not produced. There also has been renewed interest in Halloween as a time when adults can also cross cultural boundaries and shed their identities by indulging in an uninhibited evening of frivolity. Thus, the basic Celtic quality of the festival as an evening of annual escape from normal realities and expectations has remained into the present.

Bibliography

The definitive scholarly work on Halloween has yet to be written. Ralph Linton and Adelin Linton's Halloween through Twenty Centuries (New York, 1950) is an adequate introduction, though dated. Lacking substantial citations, it should be read along with other texts to ensure its accuracy. An excellent volume on Celtic belief systems, and especially the feast of Samhain, is Marie-Louise Sjoestedt-Jonval's Dieux et héros des Celtes (Paris, 1940), translated by Myles Dillon as Gods and Heroes of the Celts (London, 1949). A useful ethnographic approach to the study of Halloween was taken by Helen Sewell Johnson in her article on "November Eve Beliefs and Customs in Irish Life and Literature," Journal of American Folklore 81 (1968): 133142. A contemporary look at Halloween customs in the United States can be found in folklorist Jack Santino's "Halloween in America: Contemporary Customs and Performances," Western Folklore 42 (1983): 120.

Leonard Norman Primiano (1987)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween-0

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

Halloween

Nothing less than a horror-film renaissance was spawned with the release of director John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978. Halloween also gave independent film producers something to scream about. With a budget of around $300,000 and no major studio behind them, executive producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad backed the film, which Carpenter co-wrote with Debra Hill (who also served as producer). The film went on to earn an estimated $55 million, siring several not-so-memorable sequels as well as some worthy and unworthy imitators in the early 1980s.

The plot of Halloween is a deceptively simple one. The film begins in the sleepy town of Haddonfield, Illinois, on Halloween night, 1963. Little six-year-old Michael Myers has just murdered his sister with a butcher knife. Cut to fifteen years later. Michael has reached the age of twenty-one within the walls of a mental hospital, under the care of Dr. Loomis (played with fidgety obsessiveness by Donald Pleasence). Loomis describes Myers as a monster who must never be released or allowed to escape. Of course, he escapes on the day before Halloween and returns to Haddonfield to finish what he started. With Loomis giving chase, Myers (described as "the Shape" in the credits, played by Nick Castle) returns home. Myers' modus operandi is consistent: he goes after high-school girls, including Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her first and most recognizable screen role).

With a lean budget and only one star, Carpenter had to depend upon skill and luck to author a film with a tone that is as eerie as it is unprecedented in horror. His musical score is the sparsest imaginable, but the tinkling piano keys above the menacing drone of electronically produced strings and brass set a terrifying mood. Thanks to cinematographer Dean Cundey, Halloween's bright, but somehow claustrophobic daylight exterior shots make even the quiet neighborhoods of Haddonfield seem ominous. The shadowy interiors of Haddonfield's houses only half reveal the terror within them, making that threat seem even greater.

By locating the threat within a mundane, middle-class suburb, Halloween creates the giddy unease of an urban legend. The chants of trick-or-treat rhymes at the beginning of the film, the sexual precocity of the teenaged characters, the babysitting nightmare, the legendary murder fifteen years before—all recall the themes of urban legends, evoking similar campfire-ghost-story responses without exploiting them as mere plot devices. Carpenter's greatest innovation, as well as his most copied, is the use of the point of view of the monster/stalker. Audiences used to the syntax of horror films—the empty dark space over the heroine's shoulder, the fake-terror-relief-then-real-terror economy in classic horror films by William Castle and Roger Corman—were introduced to a new phenomenon. By offering the point of view of the Monster, audience instincts for fight or flight were frustrated and tension in the audience soared. Finally, the monster himself: created by production designer Tommy Lee Wallace simply by painting a two-dollar William Shatner mask white, this false face became the most uncanny of monsters, a blank slate that could hold infinite horrors in the imagination of the audience.

In 1978, audiences consisted mainly of kids the same age as the teenagers being murdered and mutilated in the film. These audiences responded enthusiastically to the psychosexual themes in Halloween. Like the many imitators and their sequels that followed—Friday the Thirteenth, Prom Night, etc.—Halloween consisted of teenagers being maimed and slaughtered before, during, or after intercourse. Sex precedes death in these films. Coitus became the foreplay for the climax(es) of the film, the murders of promiscuous (and mainly female) teenagers. Despite the apparent Puritanism and sexism of Halloween and its cousins, California-Berkeley Professor Carol Clover finds an almost feminist formula in them. Clover points out that it is, after all, Laurie Strode who survives Halloween: "The image of the distressed female most likely to linger in memory is the image of the one who did not die: the survivor, or Final Girl. She is the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and perceives the full extent of the preceding horror and of her own peril; who is chased, cornered, wounded; whom we see scream, stagger, fall, rise and scream again…. She alone looks death in the face, but she alone also finds the strength either to stay the killer long enough to be rescued (ending A) or to kill him herself (ending B). But in either case, from 1974 on, the survivor has been female."

—Tim Arnold

Further Reading:

Clover, Carol. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1992.

Waller, Gregory A., editor. American Horrors: Essays on the Modern American Horror Film. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

"Halloween." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Halloween

HALLOWEEN

Halloween is thought to have derived from a pre-Christian festival known as Samhain (pronounced "Sah-wen") celebrated among the Celtic peoples. The various peoples whom we now refer to as "Celts" once lived across Europe, but in time they came to inhabit the areas known today as Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, and Cornwall. Today's Irish, Welsh, and Scots peoples are the descendants of these peoples, as are their Gaelic languages.

Halloween in the Old World and the New

Samhain was the principal feast day of the year; it was New Year's Day of a year that began on 1 November. Traditionally, bonfires were lit as part of the celebration. It was believed that the spirits of those who had died during the previous twelve months were granted access into the Otherworld during Samhain. Thus, spirits were said to be traveling on that evening, as the Celtic day was counted from sundown to sundown.

Scholars know little about the actual practices and beliefs associated with Samhain. Most accounts were not written down until centuries after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity circa 300 a.d., and then by Christian monks recording ancient sagas. From the evidence, we know that Samhain was a focal point of the yearly cycle, and that traditions of leaving out offerings of food and drink to comfort the wandering spirits had joined the bonfire custom. Also, the tradition of mumming—dressing in disguise and performing from home to home in exchange for food or drink, as well as pranking, perhaps in imitation of the wandering spirits, or simply as a customary activity known to accompany periods of liminality and transition throughout Europe—had become part of the occasion. With the acceptance of Christianity, the times of the pre-Christian festivals were used as occasions for church feast and holy days. In the sixth century, 1 November became the Feast of All Saints, or All Hallows. Many of the folk traditions surrounding this occasion continued, and the Eve of All Hallows, Hallow Evening, has become conflated into the word "Halloween." In the ninth century, 2 November was assigned the Feast of All Souls, a day set aside for prayers for all the faithful departed who had died during the year previous.

Halloween was brought to North America with Irish and British colonists, although it was not widely observed until the large influx of European immigrants in the nineteenth century, especially the Irish fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s and thereafter. Into the nineteenth century in New England, one was more likely to encounter some version of Guy Fawkes Day, known also as Bonfire Night and Pope Day (because of its antipapist nature). The day commemorated the apprehension of Guido Fawkes on 5 November 1605 in a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. He was hung, drawn, and quartered. Effigies called "guys" were immolated on bonfires in British New England, and this tradition continued into the twenty-first century in Great Britain and parts of Canada. In the United States, Halloween, celebrated on 31 October, is a time for parties and pranking. As a festival of autumn, the fruits, vegetables, and foods associated with it are those of the harvest. Games were and are still played with apples, and the primary symbol of Halloween is the jack-o'-lantern, the great carved pumpkin. Likewise, both apple pie and pumpkin pie are commonly served.

In Ireland, however, Halloween is much more a harvest festival than it is in the United States, where Thanksgiving has become the official day of thanks for abundance. As Samhain, November Eve was one of the four great quarter days of the year, each one marking the beginning of a new season. Samhain also marked the start of a new year. Halloween commands a place of honor in Ireland today greater than in the United States. And, in fact, it functions much like the American Thanksgiving does. Family meals and a gathering of relatives are common. There is pranking throughout the season, and Halloween rhyming, in which young people go from door to door for weeks in advance of 31 October, and present a rhyme or perform a song of some sort in return for nuts, apples, or money. The money is spent on fireworks. Also well in advance of the actual day, lanterns are carved out of large turnips, called "swedes," or rutabagas in the United States. These are given a face and a handle, and are carried about or set on walls to create a spooky atmosphere. When the old tradition of the turnip lantern was brought to the New World, settlers found the already hollow pumpkin to be preferable to the hard turnip, and so the pumpkin replaced the turnip in the United States. But the pumpkin is a fruit introduced to Europeans by Native Americans and is not native to Ireland, Great Britain, or the rest of Europe.

By carving a face on a turnip or a pumpkin, one transforms the organic item into a cultural one. The jacko'-lantern is the wandering spirit of a man who was refused entry into either heaven or hell in the afterlife. He is condemned to wander this earth, carrying a lantern to guide his way. He is a trickster; he will lead hapless souls who follow his light to no good. The turnip lantern is said to represent the spirits of the dead—ghosts. The organic items are made to reference the supernatural. Also, they are turned into another kind of cultural item: food. Pumpkin pies and mashed turnips are foods of the season, and they represent domestic aspects of Halloween. The wild, unpredictable outside and the safe, nuturing inside are two poles of this festival. Halloween combines danger and safety, as when trick-or-treaters in the United States are invited in for cider and doughnuts. In Ireland, the inversive elements usually precede the day itself, which is given over to parties, special meals, and traditional games. These games are often played with the seasonal foods, such as dunking for apples, but they are also used in a playful way as divination games. For instance, Halloween in Ireland is also known as Nut Crack Night, because a common game is to place two nuts together near the hearth, name them for an adolescent or courting couple, then see what the effect of the heat is on the nuts. If they explode and pop away from each other, their relationship is doomed.

Foods and Games of the Holiday

Divination and Halloween food come together in the apple tarts (pies) and the cakes known as barm brack. "Barm brack" means speckled bread. It is a corn loaf, and it is baked with tokens inside, usually a ring, but also a thimble or a button. To get the ring means you will be married; the button suggests bachelorhood for a man, and the thimble suggests spinsterhood for a woman. There may be other tokens as well. The apple tart is also baked with charms, usually a coin (preferably silver.) This means good luck for the recipient. These food customs are widespread in Ireland—one sees the bake shops advertising their apple tarts and barm bracks "with rings and mottoes." Likewise, in the supermarkets, quantities of apples, hazelnuts, peanuts in the shell (called "monkeynuts"), and even coconuts are displayed alongside soft drinks and false faces.

Many are the divination games and rites of Halloween. It is said, for instance, that one should peel an apple continuously, so that the peel is in one long piece, then toss it over one's left shoulder. As it lands, the peel will form the initial of one's future love. Typically, these games are played by girls, to whom the indoor, domestic, nurturing realm is given, while the adolescent boys collect bonfire materials and engage in games of macho daring with firecrackers. Halloween is in these ways very gendered.

According to some accounts, the Halloween supper has featured roast fowl or even meat, but as the day before a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church, Halloween has traditionally been a day of abstinence from meat. The dishes most associated with Halloween in Ireland, colcannon, champ, and boxty, are all made from root vegetables and those earthy harvests such as potatoes and cabbage. Champ is mashed potatoes, frequently with leeks, and served with a pool of melted butter in the top. Colcannon is potatoes and cabbage. Boxty is mashed potatoes mixed with grated raw potatoes, onion, and cabbage. The ingredients are mixed together, boiled, then cut into portions and fried.

These traditional foods are emblematic of Halloween for many in Ireland. Sometimes, portions were left out for the fairies. In an article published in 1958, K. M. Harris quotes a man who recalls his mother putting salt on the head of each child to prevent him or her from being taken away by the "wee people" on Halloween. He also recounts her placing a thimble-full of salt on each plate. If the salt fell down, that person would die in the next twelve months. We see in these beliefs the continued association of food with the supernatural, and perhaps also an echo of the old new year's day of Samhain in the idea that what happens on this night affects the next twelve months.

Celebrating Halloween in the Twentieth Century and Beyond

Periods of transition and seasonal change frequently are felt to be times when the barriers between the natural and the supernatural—between our world and the other-world—are opened. During such times, spirits and other worldly creatures such as fairies are especially active. They are dangerous and must be appeased; thus, the offerings of food. But they are also tricksters and can be imitated, therefore lending an air of inversion to Halloween. In the United States, 31 October has become a major celebration that appeals to adults as well as children, as shown by the elaborate homemade and store-bought decorations people use to decorate their homes, and also by the adult street festivals, masquerades, and parties found all over the United States. Commercially, Halloween has become second only to Christmas in the amount of revenue it generates.

Ironically, by the mid-twentieth century, Halloween in the United States had become almost exclusively a children's event. The custom of trick-or-treating (the American version of Halloween rhyming) seems to have been introduced in the 1930s as an alternative to the children's pranking activities—sometimes dangerous, such as logs in the road. Trick-or-treating became a widespread activity after World War II. While treats could include apples and homemade sweets, the favored treat was commercially produced candy. In the United States, then, Halloween has always reflected the commercial culture of capitalism. In recent decades, stories known as "urban legends" have circulated, describing poisoned treats and apples with razor blades hidden in them. While there has been no substantial verification of the stories, the belief is widespread. The result is that homemade treats and natural fruits are looked at suspiciously—many communities offer Halloween treat X-raying services—so now more than ever, the commercially produced sweet is preferred.

By the late twentieth century, as the generation that had enjoyed Halloween as children became adults, the holiday returned to being one in which different age groups engaged. College students hosted large costume parties. Cities such as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco had major street festivals. As a day of public costuming and inversion, a time when people confronted images of the taboo—representations of death, evil, and chaos—Halloween had long been used by the gay population as a "safe" time to parade in drag, to publicly display an identity that they felt they had to keep hidden the rest of the year. By the end of the century, the rest of the population joined them to create a kind on national Mardi Gras. Unlike the actual Fat Tuesday, however, this carnival is in the autumn, and it combines seasonal images of the harvest with images of human death (ghosts and skeletons) as well as other unspeakables. All of this is done as the nights grow longer and winter approaches, and it is done with a sense of humor. Halloween is a time when it is safe to play with our fears, to allow our demons to come out from under the bed and take center stage once a year.

See also: Commecialization of Children's Play, Commercialization of Leisure

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ellis, Bill. "'Safe' Spooks: New Halloween Traditions in Response to Sadism Legends." In Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Edited by Jack Santino. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Harris, K. M. "Extracts from the Committee's Collection." Ulster Folklife 4 (1958): 37–49.

Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Santino, Jack, ed. All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

——. Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

——. The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival in Northern Ireland. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998.

Tuleja, Tad. "Trick or Treat: Pre-Texts and Contexts." In Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Edited by Jack Santino. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Jack Santino

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Recreation and Leisure in America. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Recreation and Leisure in America. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

"Halloween." Encyclopedia of Recreation and Leisure in America. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halloween

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.