What do you know about Halloween? Do you celebrate it in your country?
Halloween is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31st October. Like many other holidays, Halloween has evolved and changed throughout history. Over 2,000 years ago people called the Celts lived in what is now Ireland, the UK, and parts of Northern France. November 1st was their New Year’s Day. They believed that the night before the New Year (October 31st) was a time when the living and the dead came together.
More than a thousand years ago the Christian church named November 1st All Saints Day (also called All Hallows). This was a special holy day to honor the saints and other people who died for their religion. The night before All Hallows was called Hallows Eve. Later the name was changed to Halloween.
Like the Celts, the Europeans of that time also believed that the spirits of the dead would visit the earth on Halloween. They worried that evil spirits would cause problems or hurt them. So on that night people wore costumes that looked like ghosts or other evil creatures. They thought if they dressed like that, the spirits would think they were also dead and not harm them.
The tradition of Halloween was carried to America by the immigrating Europeans. These days Halloween is not usually considered a religious holiday. It is primarily a fun day for children. Children dress up in costumes like people did a thousand years ago. But instead of worrying about evil spirits, they go from house to house. They knock on doors and say “trick or treat.” The owner of each house gives candy or something special to each trick or treater.
These are pumpkins with the inside removed and a nose, eyes and mouth cut into one side. A candle is placed inside the empty pumpkin and the light creates a scary face effect. In the past people used potatoes or turnips to make lanterns but nowadays pumpkins are more popular. People use pumpkin lanterns to decorate their homes at Halloween.
To play this game, lots of apples are placed in a large tub or bowl of water. The competitors have to take a bite from one of the apples without using their hands. To make this more difficult, the competitors have their eyes covered with a scarf. You are not allowed to use the sides of the bowl to help you bite the apple. This game often involves getting very wet so it’s a good idea to bring a towel!
People of all ages dress up on Halloween. The most popular fancy dress costumes include witches, vampires, ghosts, skeletons, zombies or monsters. You can buy a costume from a shop or you can make your own costume at home. It’s easy to make a ghost costume from an old white sheet or wear black clothes to look like a witch.
Trick or treating
Children dress up and then visit the houses in their neighbourhood asking for a ‘trick or treat’. The neighbour gives them sweets or money as a ‘treat’. If there is no treat, the children play a trick on the neighbour, for example they might throw soap at the window. Some people think that playing tricks is unkind but luckily there is nearly always a treat! This custom is imported from the USA and is more popular with young people than with adults. Young children usually go trick or treating with parents or with an older brother or sister.
Find more about Halloween and practice Halloween vocabulary on http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/node/1004