Halloween was not even recognized as an American holiday until the 19th century. The commercialization of Halloween in the United States did not start until the 20th century, perhaps beginning with people sending Halloween postcards which were popular in the early 1900’s. There is very little known or documented about costuming on Halloween in the United States or anywhere else, before 1900. The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door-to-door in their neighborhoods, ringing doorbells and yelling “trick or treat!” to get a candy treat.
Carving pumpkins is also associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins are readily available and much larger, making them easy to carve. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their home’s doorstep after dark. The carved pumpkin or jack-o’-lantern can be lit up with a candle or small light bulb.
Nowadays, in most cities and towns, trick-or-treaters are welcomed by lit porch lights and jack-o’-lanterns. Some homes have witches, scarecrows, orange string lights and inflatable decorations such as vampires, mummies, pumpkins, and spiders. While the more elaborate may have grave stones, fog machines, scary sound effects and robotic zombies. In addition to trick-or-treating and parties for children, Halloween costume parties have become an opportunity for adults to gather and socialize. Urban bars are frequented by people wearing Halloween masks and risqué costumes. Some businesses even have costume contest for their employees.
On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest October 31 hosting many costume parties. Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hosts one of the more infamous annual Halloween celebrations. Anoka, Minnesota, the self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World”, celebrates the holiday with a large civic parade and several other city-wide events. New York City hosts the United States’ largest Halloween celebration, known as The Village Halloween Parade.
One of the largest Halloween attractions in the United States is Knott’s Halloween Haunt at California’s Knott’s Berry Farm, which features re-themed amusement park rides and a dozen different walk through mazes, plus hundreds of costumed performers. Among other theme parks, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom stages a special separate admission event after their regular park hours called Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party featuring a parade, stage show featuring Disney villains and a Happy HalloWishes fireworks show with a Halloween theme, while their sibling park in California, Disneyland Resort, holds Mickey’s Trick-or-Treat Party at their California Adventure park. Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando also feature annual Halloween events, dubbed Halloween Horror Nights. Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Tampa Bay and Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Williamsburg also host a few weeks of Halloween-themed fun. The Six Flags amusement parks also have Halloween events called Fright Fest in which visitors enjoy redecorated rides, costumed ghouls, special shows and more.