You may have heard that OKA has expanded stateside, and how better to celebrate than with a little look at the infamous festivities of an all-American Halloween? From pumpkins to phantoms, trick-or-treaters to horror movies, the market for Halloween has become a phenomenon that has slowly crept over to our side of the Atlantic. But where did it all start?
Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31st, it originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Since then, there have been many myths and superstitions surrounding the night. It is said that if a woman puts a sprig of rosemary and a silver sixpence (dependent on whether you can locate the latter one of these which is, at best, unlikely) under her pillow on Halloween night, she will see her future husband in a dream.
One particularly popular pastime involves the humble (and far-easier to locate) pumpkin. The tradition of carving faces into fruit dates to the Celts who, as part of their autumnal celebration, wanted to light the way to their homes for the good spirits. A light was placed within the hollowed-out pumpkin and they eventually became known as Jack O’Lanterns. In more recent times, it was the Irish who told a legend about a farmer named Jack, who made a bargain with the devil, leaving him wandering the earth for all of time. When the immigrants arrived in America to a bountiful supply of pumpkins, they soon carved the USA into the forefront of Halloween festivities.
By the late 1800s, Halloween had shed its historical roots to become a time for mischief-making. This could mean anything from the harmless soaping of storefront windows or switching street signs, but the trouble-making often progressed into much more damaging practices. In order to counter this, local schools and authorities came up with the idea of turning Halloween into a party or parade. In Anoka, Minnesota, (now known as the ‘Halloween Capital of the World’), community leaders established a parade in 1920, where treats of popcorn, peanuts and candy were given to all who participated. After the parade, a huge bonfire was held in the town square. The event has continued to this day with the exception of 1942 and 1943, during World War II.
In England, Halloween has certainly caught on, with streets lit up by pumpkin faces and plenty of three feet tall ghouls in bed linen running from door to door. So, get your pumpkin-carving knives and face paints at the ready as the 31st is just around the corner.