FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
What is Halloween?
trick-or-treating is on October 31st regardless of the day of the
week. Many communities choose to celebrate Halloween in other
ways and on other days. You may wish to contact your local newspaper
or television station.
What is the origin and history of Halloween?
Halloween have its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known
as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win").
The festival of Samhain
is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture.
Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies
and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October
31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead
overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc
such as sickness or damaged crops.
The festival would frequently
involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects
to the area which attracted bats to the area.
costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease
Why do we "Trick or Treat"?
Trick-or-treating, is an activity for children on or around Halloween
in which they proceed from house to house in costumes, asking for
treats such as confectionery with the question, "Trick or treat?"
The "trick" part of "trick or treat" is a threat to play a trick
on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating
is one of the main traditions of Halloween. It has become socially
expected that if one lives in a neighborhood with children one should
purchase treats in preparation for trick-or-treaters.
activity is popular in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland,
Canada, and due to increased American cultural influence in recent
years, imported through exposure to US television and other media,
trick-or-treating has started to occur among children in many parts
of Europe, and in the Saudi Aramco camps of Dhahran, Akaria compounds
and Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia. The most significant growth — and
resistance is in the United Kingdom, where the police have threatened
to prosecute parents who allow their children to carry out the "trick"
element. In continental Europe, where the commerce-driven importation
of Halloween is seen with more skepticism, numerous destructive
or illegal "tricks" and police warnings have further raised suspicion
about this game and Halloween in general.
In Ohio, Iowa,
and Massachusetts, the night designated for Trick-or-treating is
often referred to as Beggars Night.
The practice of dressing
up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes
back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating
resembles the late medieval practice of "souling," when poor folk
would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food
in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).
It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices
for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare
mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona
(1593), when Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering, whining],
like a beggar at Hallowmas."
Yet there is no evidence that
souling was ever practiced in America, and trick-or-treating may
have developed in America independent of any Irish or British antecedent.
There is little primary documentation of masking or costuming on
Halloween — in Ireland, the UK, or America — before 1900. The earliest
known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking
North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario,
near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal
for the smaller children to go street guising (see below) on Halloween
between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded
with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs. Another isolated
reference appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference
in Chicago in 1920. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced
between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show
children but do not depict trick-or-treating. Ruth Edna Kelley,
in her 1919 history of the holiday, The Book of Hallowe'en, makes
no mention of such a custom in the chapter "Hallowe'en in America."
It does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the
1930s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term "trick
or treat" appearing in 1934, and the first use in a national publication
occurring in 1939. Thus, although a quarter million Scots-Irish
immigrated to America between 1717 and 1770, the Irish Potato Famine
brought almost a million immigrants in 1845–1849, and British and
Irish immigration to America peaked in the 1880s, ritualized begging
on Halloween was virtually unknown in America until generations
Trick-or-treating spread from the western United States
eastward, stalled by sugar rationing that began in April 1942 during
World War II and did not end until June 1947.
attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947 issues
of the children's magazines Jack and Jill and Children's Activities,
and by Halloween episodes of the 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 become firmly established
in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the
cartoon Trick or Treat, Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters
on an episode of their television show, and UNICEF first conducted
a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity
Trick-or-treating on the prairie.
Although some popular histories of Halloween have characterized
trick-or-treating as an adult invention to rechannel Halloween activities
away from vandalism, nothing in the historical record supports this
theory. To the contrary, adults, as reported in newspapers from
the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, typically saw it as a form of extortion,
with reactions ranging from bemused indulgence to anger. Likewise,
as portrayed on radio shows, children would have to explain what
trick-or-treating was to puzzled adults, and not the other way around.
Sometimes even the children protested: for Halloween 1948, members
of the Madison Square Boys Club in New York City carried a parade
banner that read "American Boys Don't Beg."
What is the history of carving pumpkins / jack-o'-lanterns?
A jack-o'-lantern (sometimes also spelled Jack O'Lantern) is
typically a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with the holiday
Halloween. Typically the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then
scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto
the outside surface, and the lid replaced. During the night, a candle
is placed inside to illuminate the effect. The term is not particularly
common outside North America, although the practice of carving lanterns
for Halloween is.
In folklore, an old Irish folk tale tells
of Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who uses a cross to trap the Devil.
One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple
tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around
the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't
get down. Another myth says that Jack put a key in the Devil's pocket
while he was suspended upside-down;
Another version of the
myth says that Jack was getting chased by some villagers from whom
he had stolen, when he met the Devil, who claimed it was time for
him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting the
Devil with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing
him. Jack told the Devil to turn into a coin with which he would
pay for the stolen goods (the Devil could take on any shape he wanted);
later, when the coin/Devil disappeared, the Christian villagers
would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan.
He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack's wallet,
only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in
the village. Jack had closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped
the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped. In both myths, Jack
only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After
a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his
life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, the
Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from
Hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would
see where to go, as he had no light, and the Devil mockingly tossed
him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell.
Jack carved out one of his turnips (which was his favourite food),
put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth
for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or
There are variations on the legend:
Some versions include a "wise and good man", or even God helping
Jack to prevail over the Devil.
There are different versions
of Jack's bargain with the Devil. Some variations say the deal was
only temporary but the Devil, embarrassed and vengeful, refuses
Jack entry to hell after Jack dies.
Jack is considered a greedy
man and is not allowed into either heaven or hell, without any mention
of the Devil.
Despite the colorful legends, the term jack-o'-lantern
originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern, with the
earliest known use in the mid-17th century; and later, meaning an
ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp. In Labrador and Newfoundland,
both names "Jacky Lantern" and "Jack the Lantern" refer to the will-o'-the-wisp
conept rather than the pumpkin carving aspect.
Why do we wear costumes?
Halloween costumes are outfits worn on or around October 31,
the day of Halloween. Halloween is a modern-day holiday originating
in the Pagan Celtic holiday of Samhain (in Christian times, the
eve of All Saints Day). Although popular histories of Halloween
claim that the practice goes back to ancient celebrations of Samhain,
in fact there is little primary documentation of masking or costuming
on Halloween before the twentieth century. Costuming became popular
for Halloween parties in America in the early 1900s, as often for
adults as for children. The first mass-produced Halloween costumes
appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming
popular in the United States.
What sets Halloween costumes
apart from costumes for other celebrations or days of dressing up
is that they are often designed to imitate supernatural and scary
beings. Costumes are traditionally those of monsters such as vampires,
ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. There are also costumes
of pop culture figures like presidents, or film, television, and
cartoon characters. Another popular trend is for women (and in some
cases, men) to use Halloween as an excuse to wear particularly revealing
costumes, showing off more skin than would be socially acceptable
Where can I buy a costume anytime during the year?
You can find
Costumes at BuyCostumes.com. They have the best prices,
widest selection, year-round availability and 100% satisfaction
guaranteed. For over 15,000 Halloween costumes and accessories,
check out the web's most popular costume store. Halloween is here.
We have compiled resources for last minute plans.
Halloween Frequently Asked Questions