Find out some more about the traditional festival of Halloween.

Magazine: Halloween

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Halloween is a popular festival in many countries all over the world, and every year it seems to get bigger. It's getting dark earlier and it's starting to get cold. Christmas is still a long way away. We need something to cheer us up and take our minds off the fact that winter is nearly here. Find out some more about the traditional festival of Halloween.

The origins of the name

The festival of Halloween has its roots in Celtic and Roman traditions. Over 2,000 years ago the Celts in Britain, Ireland and parts of France celebrated Samhain to mark the beginning of winter. When the Romans invaded, they merged this with Feralia, their celebration of the passing of the dead. As Christianity spread, the Church tried to replace these pagan feasts with official Church holy days. One of these was 1 November. It was called All Saints Day, or 'All Hallows', and 31 October was known as 'All Hallows' Eve', and then Halloween.

Halloween traditions

In the past there was a tradition called 'souling'. Poor people went around houses asking for food. In exchange, they promised to say prayers for the dead. People no longer go souling, but the habit has been transformed into a modern Halloween game for children in the US, who dress up as ghosts, witches and monsters and go around people's houses asking for sweets. This game is called 'Trick or Treat'.

Witches

Halloween wouldn't be fun without witches. Witches have always been part of popular folklore. Shakespeare's play Macbeth opens with three witches. A witch was someone – usually a woman – who had special powers and had dealings with the devil. The American town Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, is famous for the 'witchcraft trials', which took place there in 1692.

Pumpkins

The pumpkin has become a symbol of Halloween. People empty a pumpkin, cut a face into the side and put a candle inside to make a lamp. It's known as a jack-o'-lantern, from an Irish legend about a man called Jack who made a deal with the devil.

Animals

Black cats, frogs, mice and spiders are just some of the animals associated with Halloween. Generally, the more unpleasant the animal, the stronger the Halloween connection. Nocturnal animals like bats are particular favourites, and if, as is the case with vampire bats, they like drinking blood, they are high on the Halloween list.

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Halloween is one of the joyful festival I think. Our country never celebrate it before. Water festival is the festival I like the most in my country.

That site is a good opportunity for me to learn more English.
About Halloween celebration it's a complete story with a lot of information whitch I didn't know.
In Portugal, Halloween is celebrated not long. Instead of this festival, we celebrate "All Saints Day in November 1rst with a "Magusto" of chestnuts and new wine. Then we dance folk musics and songs, a mixture of catholic and pagan traditions.

Hello There British Council
Firstly Thanks for providing such directive webpage for learning English language

I am interesting in this and all articles
In my country Kurdstan/Iraq there is a similar overnight Festival called ( Barat) near Eid of Sacrifice ) children are knocking doors asking for treat :)

Hello Koshar Ali,

We're glad you enjoyed this article! I just wanted to point out that there is a Word on the Street episode dedicated to Hallowe'en that you might also enjoy.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I think Halloween, in Italy, the country where I live , is the biggest visible sign of the influence
anglo-saxon culture. New generation started learn English at kindergarten playing whit Halloween mask, and continue in primary school. So the carnival, period of time before cristian Lent, ending in Shrove Tuesday has been overtaked from Halloween.
Please excuse me for every mistake in writing and grammar. It's just my second comment.

I think the halloween festival is wonderfull. it's an occasion for every people to make up to doctor, actor, ....person they like.

it is very interesting topic, I found many useful informations

It's really a very inresting article and i injoied al lot and got many information........thanks alot.

Hellow everybody .I have just became a member of the britich council forum and I am so happy to share all of you

I think Halloween is very funny and interesting holiday. Now i will be knowing more about the celebration of this festival and knowing what does it mean souling, in our country we do not celebrate this holiday but some group of young people to get together and celebrate it, they dress up as ghosts, witches and other creepy creatures and go around peoples houses but we do not have traditon asking for sweets , they are just walking down the street but it is a very frightining too. I agree that Halloween would not be fun without witches, they have always been part of popular genre and i must say very interesting thing about pumpkin in my country , Pumpkin always was the symbol of shame for the man. we have custom when the man want to get the girl for the wife and girl will give him the pampkin it means refusal. but we have a lot of dfferent festivals , Festivel Color, Festival of rok music is very popular in Ukraine, thanks for this great article

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