Halloween is a popular holiday celebrated annually in the United States on October 31st. While every community has its unique way of celebrating, certain traditions are commonly practiced throughout the country. It’s an exciting time of year with lots going on, presenting a perfect opportunity to get involved in local culture and events, wherever you may live in the U.S.! If you’re an international nurse or medical technologist living in or planning on making the move to the U.S., learn more about this spooky holiday with our guide to Halloween.
The history of Halloween
Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, pronounced sow-in. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and it was believed that on this day, the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred, allowing spirits to roam the earth. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these spirits. Over time, Halloween has evolved into a community-centered holiday with parades, parties, and the tradition of trick-or-treating.
Trick-or-treating is a quintessential Halloween tradition. Children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door in their neighborhoods asking for candy. The phrase “trick or treat” is said when a child knocks on a door and requests candy. Trick-or-treating normally begins in the late afternoon or early evening around sunset, but some communities have set times. Try to find out what the precedent is locally by asking your work colleagues. Your Conexus MedStaff Engagement Manager may be able to help you with this, too.
How to handle trick-or-treaters: If you want to participate, put a few Halloween decorations outside of your front door – this will signal to children and their parents that it’s okay to knock and ask for candy. Make sure you stock up with plenty of candy beforehand! If you don’t want trick-or-treaters at your door, you can either put up a sign asking them not to knock, turn off your front lights, or consider going out for the evening. Whatever you choose, remember to be respectful – this is usually a fun, family-focused night and people will want to enjoy themselves.
How to go trick-or-treating: As an international healthcare professional living in the U.S. with your kid (or kids!), you may want your children to join in with other young trick-or-treaters in your community. It’s very easy to take part! All your child needs is a costume of their choice and something to collect candy in – there will be plenty of themed buckets and bags to choose from in stores. You can dress up too if you’re planning on accompanying your child as they go trick-or-treating. Themed family costumes are a common sight! Find out if there are any groups you and your child can join to go trick-or-treating, or go it alone if you wish. There will be plenty of other families on the streets for you to mingle with!
One of the most beloved Halloween traditions in the U.S. is pumpkin carving. People traditionally carve pumpkins to make jack-o’-lanterns, which are lit with candles. Jack-o’-lanterns were first made in Ireland, where they were carved from turnips and potatoes. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to the U.S., where pumpkins were plentiful and easier to carve. Pumpkin carving has become an art form, and many people participate in pumpkin carving contests and festivals.
Haunted houses are another popular Halloween tradition in the U.S. These are attractions designed to scare visitors with spooky decor, animatronics, and live actors in costumes. Some haunted houses are so scary that they have age restrictions. There are also many haunted hayrides and mazes.
Costume parties are a popular way to celebrate Halloween in the U.S. Adults and children alike enjoy dressing up in costumes and attending parties with friends and family. Costume parties may have a theme, such as a specific era or character from a book or movie.
Other Halloween traditions
In addition to the above traditions, many U.S. communities have unique Halloween customs. For example, in some neighborhoods, residents have a tradition of decorating their houses with gruesome displays and scenes. Others organize community events such as Halloween parades, carnivals, and parties. Some communities even have a tradition of “booing,” where residents leave goody bags or treats anonymously on the doorstep of a neighbor.
Halloween is a unique, community-centric holiday that is definitely worth getting involved in! Whatever your Halloween traditions may be, they are sure to be a fun way to celebrate with friends and family.
Read more about America’s unique culture here.
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