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Halloween: An Immigrant Tradition that Became American

With Halloween just around the corner, the San Diego immigration attorneys at Kazmi and Sakata wanted to share a little insight into the holiday, an immigrant tradition that became American.  Halloween, one of the most commercially successful holidays in the United States, dates back to ancient Celtic culture. Samhain, a seasonal festival that celebrates the end of harvest season, is a Gaelic tradition that was brought to the United States in the 19th century by Irish immigrants. Ancient Celts viewed the end of harvest and the coming of winter as a magical time when ghostly and ghoulish apparitions from the netherworld choose to spend some of their eternity among the living.

Within Samhain we find All Hallows Eve, a time for poor people to go door-to-door and offer a prayer for the dearly departed in exchange for food, usually a delicious treat. By the time Samhain arrived in the U.S., Americans had already adopted Thanksgiving as a national holiday to celebrate the end of a prosperous harvest. All Hallows Eve somehow became Halloween, and the prayers for the dead were replaced by costumes. It is believed that the trick or treat tradition emerged when clans going door-to-door and offering prayers were not given any food. Stingy homeowners would then pay by being the recipients of a trick.

Hollywood and the American retail industry appropriated Halloween and turned it into a fun, commercial holiday in the 1960s. Since then, Halloween has become a day for dressing up, enjoying candy, decorating, and watching horror films. Although the American Halloween experience has been exported to a few other countries, some immigrants fail to grasp the concept of this commercial holiday.

An interesting fact about Halloween is that it is celebrated the day before the Christian feast of All Saint’s Day, also known as All Soul’s Day, which in Mexico is known as the Day of the Dead. Some immigrants from predominantly Christian cultures worry about the pagan ancestry of Halloween, but religious connotation has been essentially lost over many decades. In fact, the Mexican Day of the Dead is taking greater hold in certain regions of the U.S where Halloween is actually losing favor. In other words, one tradition brought by immigrants is being supplanted by another one also brought by immigrants.

Have other questions about immigration in San Diego? Reach out to Kazmi and Sakata today. We are an immigration law firm based in San Diego and offer a wide range of services from family and temporary employment immigration to naturalization and immigration visas for San Diego businesses. Call us today at 858-874-0711 for a free immigration consultation.

June 2017
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