Tuesday 31 October 2023

Happy Halloween!

On this spooky day we have a fascinating article from the Blog of Heritage Park in Calgary about the history of Halloween in the West.
A vintage halloween postcard featuring an illustration of a young boy running away from a jack o' lantern

The history of Halloween in Western Canada goes back to the influx of norther European settlers in the 1800s. And many Halloween traditions we take for granted first appeared here, in fact the very first recorded use of the term 'Trick or Treat" is in a 1927 newspaper article from Blackie Alberta!





Well worth checking out.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

From Tricks to Treats: Western Canadian Contributions to Halloween

Two vintage halloween postcards. One featuring a witch under a full moon with bats flying around. The other featuring an illustration of a dancing jack o' lantern and candle

In the mid-1800s, a wave of Irish and Scottish immigrants settled in North America. Shortly thereafter, references to a bewitching October celebration, now known as Halloween, began appearing in the historical record. Canadians, particularly, have embraced the ghostly holiday ever since. Arguably, it was cities in the Western provinces that established the quintessential Halloween traditions we delight in today. In fact, Albertans specifically could be responsible for transforming Halloween from a night of trickery to a night of treats!  

When first observed in Canada, All Hallows Eve was often characterized as a time of mischief and pranks. So much so that Halloween was also called ‘Cabbage Night’ or ‘Cabbage-Stump Night’ as it was common to throw cabbage stalks around your neighbourhood. Other Halloween high-jinks included breaking windows, stealing front gates off fences, and throwing flour onto passersby. This tomfoolery caused a lot of folks to fear Halloween night so much that they sent postcards reminding their loved ones to be wary in October.  

Beginning in the Canadian West, however, that fear slowly began to be eclipsed by Halloween fun! The first recorded case of children dressing up for Halloween in North America was reported in British Columbia on November 2nd, 1898. The local newspaper, the Vancouver Daily World, recounted that:  

“The young people of Vancouver have inaugurated an innovation in the manner of celebrating Hallowe’en night. It is that of paying friendly visits to the residences while disguised. The habit, if properly followed out and observed, is a harmless one. Everywhere they were warmly received and hospitably treated.” 

Continuing to innovate in the following century, the phrase ‘Trick or Treat’ is actually a Canadian-ism. According to etymologist Barry Popik, the oldest recorded use of the full phrase ‘Trick or Treat’ was printed in Blackie, Alberta, a small hamlet only 65 kilometers from Heritage Park! It comes from a 1927 edition of the local newspaper and reads:  

“Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun… The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word ‘trick or treat’ to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.”

Continued at Heritage Park's Blog.

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