Halloween Traditions in the USA

Halloween has been long celebrated in the USA and has traditions that are kept today. Although the history of Halloween goes back to the time of the ancient Celts, the traditions in the US that we continue now are a mixture of both Scottish and Irish immigrants customs from the early 1900s to the 1920s.

Halloween is celebrated on October 31st in the US. Preparations for costumes, home decorations, parties, etc. are made weeks in advance. Stores begin putting out Halloween candy and other items in early September, often along with Back To School supplies.

Halloween Candy and Food

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American will spend $66.28 on Halloween this year. Second only to costumes, candy eats up the largest chunk of this budget with American families spending an average of $22 each Halloween on confections.

Candy apples, candy corn, and all types of candy, especially those in Halloween wrappers or shapes are popular. In the 1930s 1940s, children often started bonfires and roasted potatoes or nuts that were given to them. This was a treat, especially during the Depression.


At first, pumpkins were used to decorate for Halloween in the rural areas on the US where they were more easily found.  Now this custom has grown to many areas where pumpkins are brought in to cities all over the US. Carving pumpkins, adding a candle and roasting pumpkin seeds is a tradition in many families now.

Trick or Treating

Known as guising in Scotland and Ireland, children would dress up in costumes to disguise their identities and beg for food, then became trick or treating in the USA.

The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising 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 to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. –  Halloween Wkipidea

Trick or Treating is now common in the US. Having treats, often candy, to give to visitors is considered a courtesy. You also have a chance of being tricked if theres no candy at your house. That can mean something as innocent as your doorbell being rung a number of times to eggs being thrown at your house or car.


Halloween costumes were first based on the occult, such as witches, devils and ghosts. Now they are often based on the current popular toys, movies, celebrities, etc.

What are some of your own Halloween traditions?


Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History

Halloween: Customs, Recipes & Spells

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

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