It is celebrated on October 31st. It is a big and exciting event in United States, Great Britain and some other countries too.
Halloween has ancient Celtic origins. The Celtic calendar was divided in two parts: summer (from May to the end of October) and winter (from November to the end of April). They used to celebrate the start of the winter which was also the beginning of the New Year. It began on the evening of the October 31st and continued until the next day to practice religious rituals and magic. The Celts [E1] [ES1] [F1] [I1] [E2] believed that ghosts, witches and evil spirits returned on the night of October 31st. They believed that evil spirits entered the body of a person or animal. The Celts wore scary costumes and made big fires to send them away. The colours of Halloween are of Celtic origin too: orange was the colour of the harvest, black was the colour of winter and long nights. The Romans invaded Great Britain in 43 b.c., and they continued the pagan tradition to celebrate October 31st as a harvest feast. After some time Christian practices replaces pagan practices. In the 700s the Roman Catholic Church decided to call November 1st All Saint’s Day. Another name of this day was All Hallows’ Day; the evening of October 31st was All Hallows’ Eve, that is to say Halloween. [E1] [ES1] [E2] [E3] [F1] [I1]
In America and Great Britain is a very big event. People wear scary costumes and masks. The typical Halloween costumes are: witch, ghost, skeleton, monster or vampire. Children decorate their schools with pumpkins, ghosts, witches and bats and they have a Halloween party.
Pumpkins are also a symbol of Halloween. It is a very popular tradition to buy a big pumpkin and make a jack-o’-lantern [E1]
, then people put them in front of the window of their houses to frighten evil spirits. This tradition originated in Great Britain and Ireland, but people used very big turnips. In the United States there weren’t big turnips so they started to use pumpkins. Carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns is a Halloween custom dating back to Ireland. The legend tells about a man named Jack who was so stingy that he was not allowed into heaven when he died, because he was a miser. He couldn't enter hell either because he had played jokes on the devil. As a result, Jack had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day (that is to say the end of the world). The Irish people carved scary faces out of turnips, beets or potatoes representing "Jack of the Lantern," or jack-o'-lantern. When the Irish brought their customs to the United States, they carved faces on pumpkins because in the autumn they were more plentiful than turnips. Today Halloween has a special significance for children, who dress in funny or ghostly costumes and knock on neighborhood doors shouting "Trick or Treat!" hoping to receive sweets and candies!
There are some funny Halloween party games. One is called ‘bobbing for apples’. To play this game you must put water and apples in a big bowl. The apples float on the water then you must take an apple out of the water with your teeth, but you cannot use your hands. It is very difficult!
Class activity to test comprehension:
Are these sentences True or False?
1. Halloween is celebrated on October 31st
2. The ancient origins of Halloween are Spanish
3. The pumpkin is a symbol of Halloween
4. Jack-o’-lantern is made with a pumpkin
Discuss with students:
Do you have any similar tradition in your country? How do you celebrate it?
Surfing the net:
Activities in your classroom, including art, games, maths, ...about Halloween
Various activities and exercises about Halloween. Canadian Web site in English and French.