Also called All Hallows Eve
All Saints' Eve
Observed by many Christian nations, including England, United States, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, sometimes Australia and New Zealand and many Latin American countries where it is known as Noche de las Brujas (Night of the Witches)
Type Religious, Cultural (celebrated mostly irrespective of religion)
Significance There are many sources of Halloween's significance
Date October 31
Celebrations Trick-or-treating, Bobbing for apples, Costume parties, Carving jack-o'-lanterns, Bonfires and Fireworks (in
Halloween, or Hallowe'en, is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, Halloween festivals, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses" and viewing horror films. Halloween originated from the Pagan festival Samhain, celebrated among the Celts of Ireland and
The Festival of Halloween is a celebration of the end of the fertile period of the Celtic Goddess Eiseria. It is said that when Eiseria reaches the end of her fertile cycle the worlds of the dead and the living interlap. This happens on October 31. Masks are worn to show respect for the Goddess Eiseria who, like most Celtic deities, does not wish to be seen with human eyes. The day also preceeds All saints day, which was at first the celebration of the start of a new cycle of fertility for the celtic Goddess Eiseria. Couples incapable of producing children thus tried their luck on All saints day.
Halloween is very popular in
Pope Gregory IV standardized the date of All Saints' Day, or All Hallows' Day, on November
Unfortunately, there is frustratingly little primary documentation of how Halloween was celebrated in preindustrial
It is not always easy to track the development of Halloween in Ireland and Scotland from the mid-seventeenth century, largely because one has to trace ritual practices from [modern] folkloric evidence that do not necessarily reflect how the holiday might have changed; these rituals may not be "authentic" or "timeless" examples of pre-industrial times.
On Halloween night in present-day Ireland, adults and children dress up as creatures from the underworld (e.g., ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches and goblins), light bonfires, and enjoy spectacular fireworks displays, despite the fact that such displays are usually illegal. It is also common for fireworks to be set off for the entire month preceeding Halloween, as well as a few days after. Halloween was perceived as the night during which the division between the world of the living and the otherworld was blurred so spirits of the dead and inhabitants from the underworld were able to walk free on the earth. It was believed necessary to dress as a spirit or otherworldly creature when venturing outdoors to blend in, and this is where dressing in such a manner for Halloween comes from. This gradually evolved into trick-or-treating because children would knock on their neighbours' doors, in order to gather fruit, nuts, and sweets for the Halloween festival. Salt was once sprinkled in the hair of the children to protect against evil spirits.
The houses are frequently adorned with pumpkins or turnips carved into scary faces; lights or candles are sometimes placed inside the carvings to provide an eerie effect. The traditional Halloween cake in
Games are often played, such as bobbing for apples, where apples, peanuts and other nuts and fruit and some small coins are placed in a basin of water. The apples and nuts float, but the coins, which sink, are harder to catch. Everyone takes turns catching as many items possible using only their mouths. In some households, the coins are embedded in the fruit for the children to "earn" as they catch each apple. The Scottish and English have adapted the tradition to a game named "ducking", in which a participant quickly dunks in a water-filled container in an attempt to get a prize, without being submerged too long. Another common game involves the hands-free eating of an apple hung on a string attached to the ceiling. Games of divination are also played at Halloween, but are becoming less popular.
At lunch-time (midday meal, known as "dinner" in
Halloween, known in Scottish Gaelic as "Oidhche Shamhna", consists chiefly of children going door to door "guising", i.e., dressed in a disguise (often as a witch or ghost) and offering entertainment of various sorts. If the entertainment is enjoyed, the children are rewarded with gifts of sweets, fruits or money. There is no Scottish 'trick or treat' tradition; on the contrary, 'trick or treat' may have its origins in the guising customs.
Popular children's games played on the holiday include "dooking" for apples (i.e., retrieving an apple from a bucket of water using only one's mouth). In places, the game has been replaced (because of fears of contracting saliva-borne illnesses in the water) by standing over the bowl holding a fork in one's mouth, and releasing it in an attempt to skewer an apple using only gravity. Another popular game is attempting to eat, while blindfolded, a treacle-coated scone on a piece of string hanging from the ceiling.
In 2007, Halloween festival organisers in Perthshire said they wanted to move away from US-style celebrations, in favor of more culturally accurate traditions. Plans include abandoning the use of pumpkins, and reinstating traditional activities such as a turnip lantern competition and "dooking (ducking) for apples".
The Manx traditionally celebrate Hop-tu-Naa on October 31. This ancient Celtic tradition has parallels with Scottish and Irish traditions.
All Saints' Day (All Hallows Day) became fixed on November 1, 835, and All Souls' Day on November 2, circa 998. On All Souls' Eve, families stayed up late, and little "soul cakes" were eaten by everyone. At the stroke of midnight there was solemn silence among households, which had candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes, and a glass of wine on the table to refresh them. The tradition continued in areas of northern
Halloween celebrations in the
In parts of
Bobbing for apples is a well-established Halloween custom, synonymous with the Scottish "dukin". In the game, apples were placed in a water-filled barrel, and a participant would attempt to catch an apple with one's mouth only. Once an apple was caught, it would be peeled and tossed over the shoulder in the hope that the strips would fall into the shape of a letter, which would supposedly be the first initial of the participant's true love. According to another superstition, the longer the peel, the longer the peeler's life would be; some say that the first participant to get an apple would be the first to marry.
Other Halloween festivities include fireworks, telling ghost stories, and playing children's games such as hide-and-seek. Apple tarts might be baked with a coin hidden inside, and nuts of all types are traditional Halloween fare. Bolder children may play a game called "thunder and lightning", which involves loudly knocking on a neighbor's door, then running away (like lightning). This game is known as "knock-door-run", "knock-and-run", "knock-knock-zoom-zoom", "ding-dong-ditch", or "postman's knock" in parts of the country, and is also played on Mischief Night Tradition has been changing, as the majority of today's children will arrive at a door and intone "trick-or-treat" in order to receive money and sweets.
There has been increasing concern about the potential for antisocial behavior, particularly among older teens, on Halloween. Cases of houses being "egg-bombed" (especially when the occupants do not give money or gifts) have been reported, and the BBC reports that for Halloween 2006 police forces have stepped up patrols to respond to such mischief.
Halloween did not become a holiday in the
Scottish-American and Irish-American societies held dinners and balls that celebrated their heritages, with perhaps a recitation of Robert Burns' poem "Halloween" or a telling of Irish legends, much as Columbus Day celebrations were more about Italian-American heritage than Columbus per se. Home parties would center around children's activities, such as bobbing for apples, and various divination games often concerning future romance. Not surprisingly, pranks and mischief were common as well.
The commercialization of Halloween in the
There is little primary documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween in the
In the United States, Halloween has become the sixth most profitable holiday (after Christmas, Mother's Day, Valentines Day, Easter, and Father's Day).In the 1990s, many manufacturers began producing a larger variety of Halloween yard decorations; prior to this a majority of decorations were homemade. Some of the most popular yard decorations are jack-o'-lanterns, scarecrows, witches, orange and purple string lights, inflatable decorations (such as spiders, pumpkins, mummies and vampires), and animatronic window and door decorations. Other popular decorations are foam tombstones and gargoyles. Halloween is now the
Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is one of the largest and most elaborate Halloween events in the world. The month-long event takes place at Universal Studios theme parks in
In many towns and cities, trick-or-treaters are welcomed by lit porch lights and jack-o'-lanterns. In some large and/or crimeridden areas, however, trick-or-treating is discouraged, or refocused to staged trick-or-treating events within nearby shopping malls, in order to prevent potential acts of violence against trick-or-treaters. Even where crime is not an issue, many American towns have designated specific hours for trick-or-treating, e.g., 5-7 pm or 5-8 pm, to discourage late-night trick-or-treating.
Those living in the country may hold Halloween parties, often with bonfires, with the celebrants passing between them. The parties usually involve traditional games (like snipe hunting, bobbing for apples, or searching for candy in a similar manner to Easter egg hunting), haunted hayrides (often accompanied by scary stories, and costumed people hiding in the dark to jump out and scare the riders), and treats (usually a bag of candy and/or homemade treats). Scary movies may also be viewed. Normally, the children are picked up by their parents at predetermined times. However, it is not uncommon for such parties to include sleepovers.
Trick-or-treating may often end by early evening, but the nightlife thrives in many urban areas. Halloween costume parties provide an opportunity for adults to gather and socialize. Urban bars are frequented by people wearing Halloween masks and risqué costumes. Many bars and restaurants hold costume contests to attract customers to their establishments. Haunted houses are also popular in some areas.
In the southern hemisphere, spring is in full swing by October 31, and the days are rapidly growing longer and brighter. This does not mesh well with the traditional Celtic spirit of Halloween, which relies on an atmosphere of the encroaching darkness of winter.
However, Halloween has recently gained a large amount of recognition in
Halloween is largely uncelebrated in the
In some parts of the
Halloween had never been celebrated in
People's Republic of
There is no Halloween in Chinese tradition, but there is a similar Chinese holiday called Ghost Festival. The Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday, which is celebrated by Chinese people in many countries. In the Chinese calendar (a lunisolar calendar), the Ghost Festival is on the 14th night of the seventh lunar month, which is called Ghost Day. In Chinese tradition, the ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower world.
In other regions such as
Jack-o'-lanterns are often carved into silly or scary faces.
The carved pumpkin, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols. This is an Irish tradition of carving a lantern which goes back centuries. These lanterns are usually carved from a turnip or swede (or more uncommonly a mangelwurzel). The carving of pumpkins was first associated with Halloween in
The jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard drinking old farmer who tricked the devil into climbing a tree, and trapped him by carving a cross into the trunk of the tree. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack which dooms him to forever wander the earth at night. For centuries, the bedtime parable was told by Irish parents to their children. But in
The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists, and a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious. Halloween imagery tends to involve death, magic, or mythical monsters. Common Halloween characters include ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, haunted houses, pumpkinmen, black cats, aliens, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, and demons. Particularly in
Black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween.
Color associations Color Symbolism
Black death, night, witches, black cats, bats, vampires
Orange pumpkins, jack o' lanterns, Autumn, the turning leaves, fire
Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins and scarecrows, are also reflected in symbols of Halloween.
Trick-or-treating and guising
The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door-to-door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "trick or treat!" to solicit a gift of candy or similar items. Although the practice resembles the older traditions of guising in
In places of
Halloween costumes are traditionally those of monsters such as vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Costumes are also based on themes other than traditional horror, such as those of characters from television shows or movies.
BIGresearch conducted a survey for the National Retail Federation in the
"'Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" has become a common sight during Halloween in
Games and other activities
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In this Halloween greeting card from 1904, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of the face of her future husband.
In this Halloween greeting card from 1904, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of the face of her future husband.
There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. The most common is dooking or bobbing for apples, in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water; the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. A variant of dooking involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity which inevitably leads to a very sticky face.
Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. In Puicíní (pronounced "poocheeny"), a game played in
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of TV series and specials with Halloween themes (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before the holiday while new horror films, like the popular Saw (film series), are often released theatrically before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.
Visiting a haunted attraction like a haunted house or hayride (especially in the northeastern or midwest of the
Because the holiday comes in the wake of the annual apple harvest, candy apples (also known as toffee, taffy or caramel apples) are a common Halloween treat made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, and sometimes rolling them in nuts. At one time, candy apples were commonly given to children, but the practice rapidly waned in the wake of widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples. While there is evidence of such incidents, they are quite rare and have never resulted in serious injury. Nonetheless, many parents assumed that such heinous practices were rampant; at the peak of the hysteria, some hospitals offered free x-rays of children's Halloween hauls in order to find evidence of tampering. Virtually all of the few known candy poisoning incidents involved parents who poisoned their own children's candy, while there have been occasional reports of children putting needles in their own (and other children's) candy in a mere bid for attention.
One Halloween custom which persists in modern-day day
Other foods associated with the holiday:
* Candy corn
* Báirín Breac (
* Colcannon (
* Bonfire toffee (in the
* Toffee Apple (
* Apple cider
* Roasted sweetcorn
* Roasted pumpkin seeds
* Pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread
* "Fun-sized" or individually wrapped pieces of small candy, typically in Halloween colors of orange, and brown/black.
* Novelty candy shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms, etc.
* Small bags of chips, pretzels and cheese corn
* Chocolates, caramels, and gum
Some Christian churches commonly offer a fall or harvest festival-themed alternative to Halloween. Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular holiday devoted to celebrating “imaginary spooks” and handing out candy. Halloween celebrations are common among Roman Catholic parochial schools throughout North America and in
Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree features the holiday prominently. Halloween is frequently mentioned as an important date in the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, whose central themes are wizardry and magic. In Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, several pivotal events occur on Halloween night, including the death of the original 'Nite-Owl'. Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the character of the Headless Horseman are often linked to the holiday in the public mindset due to later adaptations (though Halloween is not actually mentioned in the original work).
Films in which Halloween plays a major role include adaptations of the above works, plus the Halloween film series, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, Donnie Darko, and Hocus Pocus.
Numerous Halloween television specials have been broadcast, notably It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the annual Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episod