The nights are drawing in and the leaves are falling from the trees. As our minds turn to the cold and frosty winter nights ahead, they turn too towards Halloween, ghosts, ghouls and other spooky goings-on.


Shhh! What was that noise?

It was probably just the wind.


On the 31st October each year we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as it’s more commonly known.

We see kids knocking on doors playing trick or treat, carved pumpkins with scary faces lighting up peoples windows and lots of people in fancy dress. The question is why? What is the history behind Halloween and how do people around the world celebrate it?

Let’s take a peek out from under the covers and see what it’s all about.


The Beginnings Of Scary Story

It’s hard to say exactly when or how Halloween came about, but it probably has its origins in the pagan tradition of Samhain.

Samhain took place on the 31st October and lasted until the following day. It was a mysterious time of year, at the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. As the dusk grew longer, people believed the curtain between the world of the living and the world of the dead grew thinner.

Fairies and spirits could more easily pass from the otherworld to ours, causing all sorts of chaos and mischief. At the same time, the ghosts of our ancestors would visit the homes of the Celtic people, so they would make extra food and set places at the table for their dead relatives.

Are you getting chills yet?

People would also start thinking about the future, about births, marriages, and deaths. And they would play games act out rituals to predict the future.

Some of these games are still played today during children’s (and adult’s) Halloween parties.

Spooky Old Traditions We Still Have Today

Apple bobbing, which involves trying to take as many apples out of a bucket of water only using your teeth, comes from a ritual to predict the future.

Many people still light bonfires at this time of year. In the distant past, the smoke was used to clear away bad spirits and predict what would happen in the coming year.

Pumpkin and turnip carving was also very popular. Cutting a scary face into a pumpkin, and lighting it from the inside with a candle, makes for a very scary decoration – and it was meant to scare off evil spirits too.

During the 1500s in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, people started dressing up like spirits and knocking on neighbour’s doors – and they would sing or perform poetry and ask for food.

Today, kids still go “Trick or treating”. This involves putting on spooky clothes, knocking on doors and asking for sweets. Of course, if a household doesn’t have anything to give them they might have a trick played on them. Eek!

The haunted history and terrible traditions of Halloween | Oxford House Barcelona

A More Modern Halloween

Halloween also coincides with the Christian tradition of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – a time for honouring the saints and people who have recently died. Some Christians take this time to visit cemeteries, lay flowers on the graves of their deceased family members.

While it may have its roots in religion and begun in Europe, it was the USA that really took the holiday to the next level. It was there that Halloween-themed parties became popular.

Students and families alike decorated their houses, invited friends to have fun, while serving scary looking food and funny coloured punch.

Hollywood has also played a big part in cementing the popularity of this time of year, producing horror films to thrill and scare audiences all around the world.

There’s even a scary series of ‘slasher’ movies called Halloween, which follows the story of a terrifying killer Michael Myers. There have been eleven Halloween films made in total – the first in the series was released in 1978 and the was made in 2018.

Are You Prepared To Be Scared?

Do you ever celebrate Halloween? Dress up and go trick or treating? Or would you rather hide beneath the covers and watch a scary movie?

Let us know in the comments!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Frosty (adj): so cold the ground is icy.

Ghouls (n): evil spirits or monsters.

Spooky (adj): scary or a little frightening.

Play trick or treat (exp): a game where children knock on doors and ask for sweets.

Under the covers (exp): in bed, under your sheets and blanket.

Harvest (n): the time of year when farmers collect food from the fields.

Otherworld (n): a supernatural place where spirits live.

Mischief (n): naughtiness and problems.

Chills (n): a cold feeling you experience when you are scared.

Bonfires (n): large fires that people build in their gardens.

Dressing up (pv): to put on clothes for fun and pretend to be something or someone else.

Punch (n): a type of homemade fruit drink that’s sometimes alcoholic.


adj = adjective

n = noun

exp = expression

pv = phrasal verb

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