When I was a kid, my parents had a peculiar Halloween tradition. Every Halloween, after my sister and I had returned home with our hard-earned candy, my parents levied a Candy Tax against us. We were told that this national tax was paid in exchange for parents inspecting the heaps of Halloween candy children received through trick-or-treating. I went years believing this boldfaced lie, reluctantly “paying” my candy tax of mini Milky Ways and boxes of Dots, while Tootsie Rolls were tax exempt. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what a hilarious and kind of messed-up tradition that was.
In my last post, I explored the historic origins of Halloween before it came to America, turns out, this secular American holiday started out as a Pagan celebration in the British Isles. Thanks to the influence of the Ancient Romans, I persisted into the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church strategically turned the holiday into a celebration of saints, martyrs, and the faithful dead.
There are tons of similarities between present day Halloween and Halloween as it was celebrated hundreds of years ago—costumes to scare away bad spirits, veneration for the dead, respect for the bounty of all before the long winter, and community unification. For a time, Halloween held religious significance for its participants; yet this is not the case for most Americans.
Let’s dive in, starting with the birth of America.