This is Halloween History Part 2

Check out Shelby’s post from earlier this week for Part 1. 

Halloween didn’t become popular again until the middle of the nineteenth century when Irish and Scottish immigrants fleeing the Irish Potato Famine began to settle in America. With them came the legend of ‘Stingy Jack’ and the creation of the Jack-O-Lanterns. According to the story,

Stingy Jack invited the Devil to share a drink with him. As his name suggested,  Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for their drinks, so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could pay for their drinks. The Devil agreed and once he did so, Jack decided to keep the money and placed it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the devil from changing to his original form.

He eventually freed the Devil, under two conditions: one that he would not bother Jack for one year, and two that should Jack die, the Devil would not claim his soul. The next year Jack tricked the Devil into climbing up into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While the Devil was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until Jack forced him to promise not to bother him for ten more years. Quickly after, Jack died and as the legend goes, God wouldn’t allow such a figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him, kept his word and didn’t claim Jack’s soul and didn’t allow Jack into hell either. Instead, he sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way.

Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since. In Ireland and Scotland, everyone had their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other evil spirits roaming the earth. In England, large beets were used in place of turnips and potatoes. Quickly after, they soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, made perfect jack-o-lanterns.

The Scottish and Irish also came with their own tradition of wearing costumes and going house to house asking for food or money, the practice that led to what we now call trick-or-treat. Some young women even believed that they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

By the late 1800’s, the move in America was to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. At the turn of the century,  Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate. These parties focused on festive games and costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything frightening out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious association by the beginning of the twentieth century.

In the ‘20s and ‘30s, Halloween had become a secular but community-centered holiday with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. After trouble with vandalism in the ‘20s and the ‘30s, Halloween quickly evolved into a holiday directed mainly for the young.

Now, Halloween is the second grossing commercial holiday in America, as Americans spend about $6 billion annually on Halloween candy. Adults and children alike dress up and attend parties, community trick-or-treating events, and much more.