The Evolution of Halloween Summarized

three ghosts holding a pumpkin

Halloween is one of the most popular American holidays. In 2021, the National Retail Federation is estimating that spend for the holiday is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion. This spending rate is near that of the spend rate pre-pandemic which seems to indicate that people are ready to go out and celebrate Halloween again. In addition to handing out candy, one of the most common ways that Americans are going to celebrate the holiday is by decorating their home or yard! NFR polls indicate that 52% of people will participate in Halloween by decorating their homes. This is the second most popular activity behind handing out candy! 


People, especially the younger ones, love to see a fully decorated house that is decked out with cotton spider webs, scary skeletons, and glowing smiles of the jack-o-lanterns. But why do we decorate and when did this holiday, which has clear roots in the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain, become a classic American tradition? Well, the answer is not that long ago. 

Although the origins of Halloween are indeed ancient, they are also kind of complicated. Samhain celebrated by the Celtic people, was denoted as the end of summer harvest season as well as the beginning of a new year and winter. Given that this was a time before many of our modern medicine and heating technologies, many people died during the winters. On the night before the new year, the 31st, the Celts imagined that the spirits of the dead would return to earth. In order to scare away these evil spirits, humans would dress up in costumes to scare them away.

Mixing Traditions

Later on when the Catholic church became prominent and people started to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, the vigil of All Saint’s Day on Nov. 1st,  people would dress up as the saints they admired.  The traditions of the two holidays were lumped in the new tradition and thus began the tradition of dressing up in either saintly or sinister costumes.  

Slowly, a new holiday crept out of the depths, and eventually, All Hallow’s Eve became Halloween. The holiday really took off and evolved more into the American holiday it is today as Irish immigrants came over to the United States and brought this tradition with them. One of the oldest customs in the tradition of Halloween has been the Jack-O-Lantern which were originally made out of turnips and potatoes. Once in the states pumpkins began being used for carving as they were native to the Americas and therefore more abundant than turnips. 


American Halloween grew with the United States. By the early 20th century, the majority of people in North America celebrated Halloween. But Halloween at this point was not kid-friendly and mostly restricted to adults. It was a great excuse to throw parties and decorate (something many adults still enjoy today). The U.S trick or treating tradition for kids didn’t take off until the ’20s, dropped off during WW, and then came back strong in the ’50s. At this point, the holiday was starting to become adapted for younger audiences and more cute Halloween decor was created. People also started to decorate more seriously and investing in the hyper-realistic plastic decorations that can give some young unknowing trick-or-treaters chills! 

Items to Help Celebrate this Year

As mentioned previously, Halloween is a multi-billion dollar industry that is second only to Christmas. It is a fun opportunity for small businesses to connect with customers and a long-held-American tradition. For those businesses participating in Halloween vendor fairs or business events, we’ve selected 5 fun Halloween-themed items to hand out to young trick-or-treaters and that can give your business exposure. For more Halloween items ideas see our previous blog here.


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