Everything you wanted to know about Halloween…but were afraid to ask!


By Helen Cahill

Everything you ever wanted to know about Halloween and the traditions associated with the holiday were told by EC New York’s own Sarah Weekly during the monthly AY Lecture last Wednesday, October 9th and Thursday, October 10th. In the United States and abroad, the popular belief is that Halloween is an American holiday, but according to Sarah’s findings the origins are anything but American.  In fact, celebrating the dead has Pagan beginnings from the Celtic culture.  Interestingly enough, the holiday continues to be celebrated in the UK with variations of All Soul’s Day throughout the Roman Catholic world although it is by far the most popular in America (U.S.) where 158 million people will actively celebrate Halloween, go trick or treating, and spend $6.9 billion!  22 million Americans will dress up their pets spending $330 million!

Dressing up is only a small part of the festivities. Halloween related food fills the month of October with tasty treats such as pumpkin pie, bread, coffee, candied apples, traditional candy corn and sweets decorated with pumpkins, witches, ghosts, bats, and spiders.  Enthusiastic masqueraders happily present themselves at parties and parades dressed as their favorite super hero, Hollywood or historical character or clever pairs who invent costumes as a “play on words” that viewers must figure out on their own.

The New York and New England region of the United States were among the earlier settlements where Halloween traditions have been practiced and growing for 400-500 years and have proven that the fun is not just for kids, but for adults, too!   Salem, Massachusetts and Sleepy Hollow, New York continue to exploit their history throughout the month of October with spooky events to entice Halloween lovers. These activities can be especially entertaining for Halloween first timers, such as those who are new to studying at a New York English School.

Those in New York City can easily reach Van Cortlandt Manor by Metro North railroad to view the Great Pumpkin Blaze where over 4,000 pumpkins have been carved and lit for the season.  Note that tickets must be purchased online, in advance. On the 31st of October, in New York City, those in costume only can march in the unbeatable Halloween Parade beginning on 6th Avenue from the East and South between Canal and Spring Streets at 6:30pm!  Without a costume, you may view as spectators from 6th Avenue and Spring Street to 16th Street from 7pm to 10:30pm rain or shine!  This year is particularly special since last year’s parade was unfortunately cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.  All are encouraged to come out and participate!