(Archive - Week of October 30, 2004)
Halloween - Trick or Treat
European immigrants brought their own Halloween practices to this great melting pot that is America. For instance, during colonial times, Halloween consisted of people telling ghost stories. Still, while harvest was celebrated in one form or another in the United States well into the 19th century, Halloween, as we know it, was not.
But by the end of the 19th century, the millions of Irish immigrants breathed new life into this holiday. Soon, Americans borrowed the English and Irish traditions, and started wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating. By the 1920s, Halloween was a community holiday with people parading and holding town-wide festivities.
What made Halloween what it is today is undeniably the baby boom of the 1950s. This affluence of children made the celebration take aim at them instead of their parents. Schools got on the bandwagon and Halloween was recognized as a fun way of entertaining kids. Trick-or-treating even took on another meaning in that if families provided treats to the neighborhood children, nobody would play tricks on them.
No, Jack O'Lanterns are not a conspiracy from pumpkin growers to flood the market with their product. They've actually been around for centuries. It all started with an Irish legend about Stingy Jack, a man who met with the Devil every year and tricked him into not taking his soul every time.
When Jack finally died, God didn't want to admit such a sleazy character in his Kingdom, and the Devil wouldn't allow him entrance into Hell because he had humiliated him before. Instead, Jack was sentenced to walk the dark night forever. He was given a blazing coal in a carved out turnip to light his way, giving us the Jack O'Lantern.
The tradition of carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes started in Ireland and Scotland when people would then put them in their windows to scare Stingy Jack away. Immigrants brought this custom with them when they came to North America, before discovering that a new fruit, the pumpkin, made the ideal Jack O'Lantern.
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