Immigrant Traditions Give Rise to Tricks and Treats

Playing dress up and soliciting candy is an immigrant tradition. More precisely, Halloween celebrations where children and adults alike don costumes, masks and makeup came to the United States out of harvest celebrations of the Celtics in Ireland and Scotland. The holiday, recognized and celebrated by folks of all backgrounds, is now less about ghosts and ghouls and more about fun and fantasy.

Originally celebrated by the Scottish and Irish, Halloween has beginnings going back to the Celts. The October 31 celebration was intended to mark the end of harvest and the onset of winter. Folk lore said it was a day when the dead returned to the earth. The costuming part of the tradition was intended as a disguise—a way to hide from the wrath of spirits.

Halloween recognition in the United States dates back to the mid- to late-1800s. At the time, Irish immigration to the United States was extremely heavy as the potato famine in the country left a starving population. Making the journey to the United States—the Land of Plenty—meant the tradition could rid itself of ghostly fear and become much more celebratory.  In this way, Halloween became a way to build community and to develop neighborhood bonding.

With a central theme of fun, safety is an important aspect. Some basic rules to observe:

  • Swords, knives or other such items used in costumes should be soft and flexible.
  • Trick or treaters should make their rounds in groups and always with a responsible adult.
  • Use reflective tape in costumes to give visibility in nighttime hours. It’s also a good idea to use a flashlight.
  • Stay on the sidewalk when making the tick-or-treating rounds—and look both ways when crossing the street, of course.
  • Only eat candy that’s factory wrapped. Homemade treats given by strangers should be tossed into the garbage.
  • Don’t eat all the candy all at once to avoid a sugar overdose.

As the fun and festivities get underway, it’s only appropriate to remember immigrants brought us the frolic of the day.