Halloween in America: History and Traditions

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Halloween is a beloved holiday for many Americans. Children and adults alike love to dress up in costumes, go to parties or trick or treating, and eat sweets and snacks. With all of the decorations and hype around the holiday, many people do not know the history of the holiday in America. Furthermore, people visiting the United States may be unaware of our American traditions. Through photos and stories by IELP staff, we invite you to learn more about Halloween!

History

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A Halloween party in 1924.

The original American colonies were mostly Puritan, and were against celebrating Halloween due to it’s association with evil and mischief. However, an influx of immigrants in the late nineteenth century helped popularize Halloween.

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Trick-or-treating increased in popularity as Americans began to dress up and go door-to-door, asking for food and money. While the history of Halloween was traditionally tied with ghosts, tricks, and witchcraft, there was a movement by neighborhoods to make Halloween about community and celebration. This was followed by the removal of “frightening” or “grotesque” descriptions of Halloween by parents and in newspapers, which made the holiday lose most of its religious overtones by the twentieth century.

Modern Traditions

Some traditions have remained from the early days of Halloween, but there are new traditions that are popular, especially within American colleges.

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Dressing up for Halloween is popular among people of all ages. In American colleges, finding a costume and dressing up for Halloween parties is a fun activity for many students. As pictured above, our IELP students love to dress up in fun costumes for our Mid-Quarter party!

Popular costumes include classic spooky costumes (skeletons, pumpkins, witches, and scary characters), animals, fairy-tale characters (Little Red Riding Hood, princesses), and pop culture references. Some people dress up in simple costumes, and some people like to go all out!

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Many students love to spend a couple hours with friends or family and carve a jack o’ lantern! This popular Halloween activity is known around the world, and is very popular in America. In many homes, you can see jack o’ lanterns lit with candles on Halloween night!

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Another Halloween tradition that is emerging in some American homes is “the Teal Pumpkin Project.” Homes with a teal pumpkin outside the door mean that the home is giving away non-food items, or non-allergen treats. Although most college students do not go trick-or-treating since the activity is meant for children, it is fun to know why teal pumpkins are popping up around Seattle!

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It is not uncommon to find a house in America that has Halloween decorations. Although usually not as complex as the one pictured above, many houses will be decorated with fake cobwebs, pumpkins and gourds, and other spooky decorations. While many countries celebrate Halloween, America is distinctly extravagant with decorations.

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For adults, and especially college students, there is no better way to celebrate Halloween than watching scary and classic Halloween movies. Horror movies are popular in every country, and loved year-round, but Halloween is a great time to re-watch your favorites.

There are some American movies made for children and teens that are not scary, but have a spooky element and are popular viewing during October. If you are interested, here are some favorites of our IELP staff: Halloweentown, Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, and Casper.

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Whether you dress up, carve a jack o’ lantern, or watch Halloween movies, IELP wishes you a happy Halloween!

Photo credits: Pixabay, Pinterest, History by Zim, IELP, Wonderopolis, Anoka Halloween, Bustle.com

Favorite Japanese Dishes

Our IELP students come from all over the world, and our STEP 3 session has a large percentage of Japanese participants. Although I have tried basic types of (American=ized) sushi, edamame, and poke bowls, I wanted to learn more about the traditional cuisine. On our field trip to Seattle Center last Tuesday, I asked the students to share some of their favorites, and did some research to find out more about these dishes and their origins.

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Monjayaki

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Sakura Yamashita describes her favorite dish she calls “Monja” as a “hot plate mixed with vegetable and meat.”

Monjayaki is very popular in the Kantō region, and is one of Tokyo’s most famous dishes. Although often compared to okonomayaki, a similar dish made in the Kansai region, it is a lot wetter and cooks flat on one side, whereas okonomiyaki is drier, firmer and thicker. The ingredients also differ. Monja is created by frying the dry ingredients (usually some variation of cabbage, noodles, cod roe, mochi, and flour) in a circle, and filling said circle with a liquid batter after a few minutes. The result? A delicious savory pancake with the consistency of melted cheese!

Tonkatsu

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“I’m from Fukuoka so I like Tonkatsu” -Kazuhiro Fujiyama

Often simply called “katsu” in the States, this classic Japanese dish uses pork fillet or loin that is dipped in salt, pepper, flour, and beaten egg before being deep fried in a coat of “panko” or bread crumbs. It is usually served with cabbage or tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables), rice, and miso soup. In Korea, tonkatsu is known as don-gaseu (돈가스) or don-kkaseu (돈까스), which derived from a transliteration of the Japanese word. There are many variations of this dish, and tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando) or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē).

Yamanashi Fruit

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Moemi Okamura explains that “peaces and grapes are the most famous in Yamanashi.”

Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture is dubbed the “kingdom of fruit,” and rightfully so! The reason lies in Yamanashi’s weather– low annual precipitation and extreme differences in heat and cold help to create sweet, juicy fruit year round. Not only is Yamanashi the biggest producer of peaches and grapes in Japan, but there are fruit picking facilities year-round boasting multiple varieties of cherries, plums, pears, strawberries, blueberries, and apples. People from all around the world flock to Yamanashi to admire their expansive orchards and to pick fresh, delicious produce.

Unagi

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 “My mom buys the eel in the supermarket but will make it at home.” -Chisa Tomono

Unagi is a cult summertime favorite among Japanese, but can cost up to 30 American dollars served in a restaurant. For this reason, many have incentive to make this delicacy at home. This calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron-rich treat is known to help combat the scorching summer heat. One student adds that July 25th is the designated “unagi day!” Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that the name of the period for eating Unagi is called ‘Doyo-no Ushi-no hi’. “Doyo” is an 18 day period between summer and autumn, mid July to early August, and is the hottest time of the year in Japan. “Ushi no hi” can be directly translated to Ox day, originating from the traditional Japanese calendar that uses the Chinese Zodiac system. Legend has it that a struggling eel restaurant owner during the Edo period began advertising unagi on the day of Ox, because both Ushi (Ox in Japanese) and Unagi begin with the letter ‘u’. This play on words worked well as a promotion, and eventually developed into a Japanese folklore that if you eat unagi on the day of ox, you will regain power!

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Obviously, this blog post does not scratch the surface of Japan’s rich culinary heritage. Other favorites frequently mentioned include sushi, nikujaga (boiled meat and potato), nattō (fermented soybeans), shabu-shabu (meat and vegetable hot pot), udon (thick wheat flour noodle), soba (thin buckwheat flour noodle), and wagashi (sweet snack often served with tea). However, I hope that this post could provide some insight into traditional Japanese cuisine and inspire you to try something new!