I have found very little information on the origins of modern halloween. There is certainly enough speculation about its connection to old Celtic festivals, to the Christian festivals of All Hallows, and quite naturally, (and most pertinently to my purposes) to the coming of fall and winter, and to a celebration of the harvest. But when exactly, did our modern conception of Halloween, with costumes, candy and neighborhood trick or treating come about? American Sociology 101 would tell me that it was probably a consequence of post-World War II suburbanization and prosperity. I imagine that it was the result of different local harvest festivals and ethnic customs getting mixed in with 1950s homogenization and commercialization. By the 1960s, the Peanuts comic strip could reference Halloween customs as background information that all its readers would presumably be familiar with.
All of this is prelude to my own first experiences with Halloween, growing up in the early 1980s. By that time, Halloween was as automatic and seems to have been a permanent fixture of American culture, although my grandparents probably hadn't celebrated the holiday as children. But I had probably the most stereotypical Halloween imaginable. I lived in a town of (at the time) 3000 people, full of cul-de-sacs and tract ranch homes, perfect for children to wander in search of candy, semi-attended. 80s toys had just made a generation of new mass-produces costumes available. Halloween was still (from my vantage point) a mostly innocent thing, and fundamentalists hadn't yet grown into a movement to target it. And I also lived in a place where the late October weather was appropriately gloomy and dark, without being too cold.
I currently live in Santiago, Chile, a city where all of the conditions that I associate with Halloween are absent. There are Halloween displays in the stores, plastic pumpkins, costumes, candy...but it doesn't quite fit. The most obvious reason is that it is springtime here. Not that there are the seasons I am used to: at 33 degrees south and over 1500 feet of elevation, the city has the same seasons as a Los Angeles where it never gets hot. The temperatures usually stay between 50 and 90 Fahrenheit. Palm trees and dry weather trees like locusts, showing their fresh spring plumage, don't put me in the mood for Halloween. In a big city where people tend to be paranoid, the idea of door-to-door trick or treating is most probably not a thing. Although the commercialization, candy and costumes might lead to some Halloween parties, it isn't quite the same for me. Personally, I have been in suspension here, knowing that time is still passing in the Northern Hemisphere, but half thinking that it is still the time and season it was when I let, in April. The changeless even light in a big Roman city hardly put me in mind for the weird mixture of northern European harvest festivals transplanted to a rainy Pacific Northwest town that I grew up with.
And, to compound that oddness, October 31st is actually a holiday here, but in what could be seen as a backhanded gift, it is the Dia Nacional de las Iglesias Evangelicals y Protestantes: the National Day for Evangelicals and Protestants. Halloween, the spooky day of suspect cultural influences, sexy costumes, and gorging ourselves on candy, is the day to celebrate Evangelical Protestantism.