How do people celebrate Halloween? PDF Print E-mail


tn_HalloweenDrawing03As a widely spread festival, Halloween is celebrated on 31 October in many parts of the world.  Some people may oppose this celebration as it glorifies evil; but others may take the opportunity simply to have parties and gatherings especially for the kids.


Offering feast and wearing ghoulish costumes: The Celts believed that witches and ghosts were everywhere at Halloween, and that spirits gathered around people’s houses accepting the feast offered by human beings.  Therefore, people offered the spirits some food, so that they would not harm any living creature or the harvest; afterwards, people put on spectral costumes to lead the spirits away from their villages.


Jack-o-lanterns are a very old tradition, based on carving turnips or mangle-wurzels – a root vegetable.  The Celts made lanterns of carved turnips – not pumpkins yet – that would be placed in their windows to warn off evil spirits.  Pumpkin carving is an American invention, as there was no pumpkin in the ancient West Europe.  Pumpkins are softer, and much easier to cut than turnips, hence they later became the most popular material for making Halloween lanterns.


'Trick-or-treating' has become popular in the UK in the last 20 or so years.  It was also imported from the US.  The 'treat' was based on a UK tradition called ‘souling’, where people collected food and money from door to door in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day, 2 November.  People believed that these offerings could protect them against bad luck.  The 'trick' was originally something the children would do to earn their treat, for example, singing a song.  Today, this custom has changed to a mock of those 'mean' families: children would make a 'trick' against the household that gives the least offering.


A particular poem is usually recited when children ask for offerings from door to door:

     Halloween's coming on and the goose is getting fat,
     Would you please put a penny in the old man's hat,
     If you haven't got a penny, a half-penny will do,
     If you haven't got a half-penny, God bless you.


[Here are some tips for parents to have ideas of safely celebrating Halloween with your children.]


Street carnival: When the Celtic celebration of Samhain was held at night, young Celts put on monstrous masks, held carved turnip lanterns, and wandered in the villages.  This was actually a celebration for the harvest of late summer.  Now people could even enjoy street carnivals rather than parades!  In Northern Ireland, the most prominent Hallowe'en celebrations can be observed in Derry: its street carnival is serious business, where people without costume would be considered abnormal.


Getting involved in activities with apples is another inherited custom.  In the UK, apples play a very important role in the traditional celebrations of Halloween.  People play games called apple bobbing: they float several apples in a bowl of water, and try to remove one by biting it; alternatively, they hang apples on strings, and try to eat one without using their hands.


As to Halloween food, toffee apples are a traditional treat.  According to an old saying, in addition, the baking of pastries and cakes is an offering to help the spirits.  This tradition has been passed on to modern times: these baking apple cakes is still a pastime for many mothers when they prepare for a Halloween party.  However, it is usually the children eating the pie that receive the offering!


Telling ghost stories: People sometimes gather around, and tell each other spooky ghost stories such as Bloody Mary Returns, No Trespassing and The White Wolf.