Halloween (All Hallows Eve) is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31st. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, Halloween festivals, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses", and watching scary movies.
Halloween originated from a Pagan festival celebrated among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain to indicate the end of the harvest season. The festival was a time used by the Gaelic culture to take stock of their supplies and to kill livestock in preparation for the long winter months. The Gaelic's believed that on October 31 the boundaries between the living and the dead overlapped and that the dead would come back to life to cause problems like sickness or to destroy the harvest.
Nowadays, the mention of Halloween is more associated children (and adults) getting dressed up in costumes. While it has always been a popular holiday in United States, Ireland, Scotland and Canada, it is now celebrated in many other countries around the world.
There are many colors and symbols that are associated with Halloween. Whilst black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween, other colors are also now popular. Some of the more popular ones are:
- Black = death, night, witches, black cats, bats, vampires
- Orange = pumpkins, jack o'lanterns, Autumn, the turning leaves, fire
- Purple = night, the supernatural, mysticism
- Green = goblins, monsters, zombies, aliens, Frankenstein
- White = ghosts, mummies, a full moon
- Red = blood, fire, demons
Traditional Symbols of Halloween
The most traditional symbol of Halloween is the pumpkin which is usually carved out and lit with a candle and placed on the home's doorstep after dark. This carved pumpkin is sometimes called a Jack-o'-lantern. In Ireland and Scotland a turnip was normally carved instead of a pumpkin.
Some things associated with Halloween are:
- black cats
- haunted houses
- horror movies
- spider webs
Common Halloween costumes include:
- devils - evil creatures
- Frankenstein - made of different body parts
- ghosts - translucent spirit
- ghouls - similar to zombies
- mummies - wrapped in bandages
- skeletons - only bones
- vampires - have fangs and like to drink blood
- werewolves - turn into a wolf with a full moon
- witches - have black hats and clothes
- wizards - have magic wands
- zombies - the walking dead
Trick or Treat
Trick or treat is the term used for children being dressed in costumes and going from house to house asking for candy. The children usually knock on the neighbor's door and say:
- "Trick or Treat. Trick or Treat. Give me something good to eat!"
Trick is the supposed threat that something bad (or mischievous) will happen to the person if they do not receive a treat (a candy, sweets or something similar). Of course kids normally don't do anything bad. Parents often walk around the streets with their kids to make sure nothing bad happens.
Common Halloween Superstitions
When it's time for Halloween celebration, it is then that the people tend to become more superstitious. There are many superstitions and myths about Halloween and most of the people have a strong belief in them:
- Going in for dumb supper, meaning that nobody will talk while having supper, encourages the spirits of the dead to come to the table.
- It is believed that if an unmarried girl keeps a rosemary herb and a silver sixpence (coin) under her pillow on Halloween night, it is quite likely that on that very night, she would dream of her future husband.
- It is said that if you hear someone's footsteps behind you on Halloween night, you should not look back because it may be a dead person following you. And if you commit the mistake of looking back, it is likely that you might join the dead very soon.
- People believe that if on the Halloween night, a girl carrying a lamp in her hand goes to a spring of water, she will see the reflection of her life partner in the water.
- People have a superstition that if an unmarried girl carries a broken egg in a glass and takes it to a spring of water, she will be able to catch the glimpse of not just her future husband, by mixing some spring water in the glass, but also she can see the reflection of her future kids.
- There is the old saying that "black cats are bad luck". It was once believed that black cats were the devil, or consumed by evil spirits.
- People used to believe that Satan was a nut-gatherer. Nuts were also used as magic charms on the day of Halloween festival.
- If you put your clothes on inside out as well as outside walk backwards on Halloween night. At midnight you will see a witch in the sky flying on a broomstick. People used to believe witches were the devil, or that they were consumed by evil.
- There is also an old saying "if the flame on your candle goes out on Halloween celebration"; it gives you the meaning that you are with a ghost.
- If you ring a bell on Halloween it will frighten evil spirits away.
- Many people used to consider that owls would dive down to eat the souls of the dying on Halloween. They used to think if you pulled your pockets out, and left them hanging, they'd be safe.
- It has been said if a bat flies into your house on Halloween, it is a sign that ghosts or spirits are very near, and maybe they are in your home and let the bat in.
- People used to believe that if bats are out early on Halloween, and they fly around playfully, then good weather is to come.
- If a bat flies around your house three times on Halloween, death is very soon to come.
- To ward off evil spirits on Halloween, you can bury all the animal bones in your front yard, or even put a picture of an animal very close to your doorway.
- People used to believe you could walk around your house three times backward before sunset on Halloween, and that would take care of all evil.
- It could be the spirit of a dead loved one watching you if you see a spider on Halloween.
Try our interactive vocabulary game about Halloween.
Halloween Resources for Teachers and Parents
There is also a bundle of these 6 activities which you can find here: English Halloween Bundle of Activities
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