October 31 is Halloween and is now celebrated in many countries around the world, but do you know anything about the origins of this scary special day? Read the article and find out.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


The origins of Halloween

If you think of Halloween, you probably think of scary carved pumpkins, all kinds of fancy dress and children asking for sweets. And if you think of a country that celebrates Halloween, you probably think of the United States first. Americans and Canadians have adopted Halloween in a big way, but Halloween traditions actually come from 16th-century Ireland, Scotland and England.

The tradition of Halloween on 31 October comes from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain was the Celtic New Year and they celebrated it on 1 November because that was the end of summer and harvest time (life) and the beginning of winter (death). It was also the time for ghosts to return to earth for a day. People lit a big fire, wore special clothes made of animal skin and hoped to be safe from the ghosts and the winter. In AD 609, the Catholic Church put the Christian celebration of All Saints Day on 1 November. In AD 1000, the church added All Souls Day on 2 November, and All Hallows Eve – or Halloween – moved to the night of the 31st.


The Celts carved faces into vegetables like turnips, potatoes and squash (a pumpkin is a kind of squash) to scare the ghosts and other spirits and make them go away. It was sometimes called a jack-o’-lantern because of an Irish story about a man, Jack. He played a trick on the devil and then had to walk the earth for all time as a punishment. Irish people who came to live in the United States in the 1800s found pumpkins much easier to carve, and the tradition became the one we see today.   

Fancy dress

The Celts were afraid of the ghosts that came on Samhain. If they went outside after dark, they covered their faces with masks. They hoped any ghosts they met would think they were ghosts too and would leave them alone. In early America, the Native Americans and the first Europeans celebrated the end of the harvest, but not Halloween. When Irish people arrived, the harvest festival started to look more like Halloween and it became popular across the country. In the late 19th century, people tried to make Halloween less about ghosts and religion and more about celebrating the season with a party for neighbours and family. That’s why Americans today wear all kinds of Halloween costumes and not just scary things like witches and ghosts like in other countries.

Trick or treat

This is another tradition that began in Europe, this time in England. When the church introduced All Souls Day, rich people gave poor people ‘soul cakes’, a small cake made with spices and raisins. It replaced the Celtic tradition of leaving food outside houses for the ghosts. ‘Going a-souling’ was popular in England for hundreds of years until about the 1930s. The Americans kept the tradition, but today children knock on people’s doors and ask for sweets. Going trick or treating is so popular that a quarter of the sweets for the year in the United States are sold for this one day.

The rest of the world

Halloween has become the United States’ second-biggest commercial festival after Christmas. Halloween is also celebrated in other countries, but it’s not as big as in the United States, even in the countries where the traditions began. Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead from 31 October to 2 November and some of its traditions, like giving gifts of sugar skulls, are starting to mix with Halloween. In this way, the celebration of Halloween continues to change as new traditions join the oldest of the Celtic ones.

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Submitted by LuisFrancisco on Fri, 01/12/2023 - 00:02


Unfortunately, I haven't celebrated Halloween in my life, I hope someday to visit a place where this tradition is celebrated. Every year I celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico, In my opinion, those celebrations are not similar at all and that's great. I think the Day of the Dead is more spiritual than Halloween but Halloween is more attractive to young people.
I only wore a fancy dress as a ghost at school because we were studying the difference between the Day of the Dead and Halloween, anyway If I had read this article before, I would have known more about the history.

Submitted by 205grafic on Mon, 20/11/2023 - 11:08


“La Castanyada” is the traditional festivity from Catalonia where we eat sweet potatoes and “panellets” (typical bakery from the region).

We sing a children's song called “La Castanyera”. We wear fancy dresses like in the rest of the world, but here there are people who dress up like the “castanyera” (an old woman who sells chestnuts in the street).

On 31st October we get together with family and friends to eat chestnuts and the typical deserts.

Submitted by D.Nemsadze on Mon, 23/10/2023 - 11:40


Traditionally we do not celebrate Halloween in my country, however it is getting more and more popular these days, as people are having lots of fun wearing fancy dresses and having parties. It is very entertaining to see people in all these fascinating costumes, like once we saw a guy wearing The Witcher's costume and it was fantastic.

Submitted by Nat_alia on Sun, 08/01/2023 - 09:26


Yes, I celebrate it and it is definietely my fav day. Unfortunately this year I am out of my country so its impossible for me. I love counting the sweets I got, as well as all the preparations related to this holiday! Basically I like all the costumes I see

Submitted by YuliaMelenchuk on Tue, 22/11/2022 - 11:55


I do not celebrate a Halloween, but I like this holiday as much I can. In Ukraine we have a lot of parties, people wear diferent fancy dress. But old people think that this holiday is about a devil and we do not need celebrate it.

Submitted by Đỗ Duy Anh on Sat, 22/10/2022 - 05:31


My country doesn't celebrate Halloween because people are not used to this festival except my English center. But I like the fact that this festival was from an old Celtic tradition and after combining with other traditions, it is still exist today. In our culture, we believed that July is the month where ghosts can go up from hell to wander around and people will give them food in order to chase them away. I was born in July too so I hope there is no ghost in my body right now.

Submitted by Zhu_ka on Wed, 19/10/2022 - 18:42


In my country peoples don’t celebrate the Halloween. But,I like the Halloween, especially to watch American movies where they show how they decorate their homes, prepare for the holiday. It's something magical.

Submitted by guma on Tue, 18/10/2022 - 05:22


No ,I have never celebbrate Halloween party!I have never wore Fancy dress. It seems to me interesting and funy!

Submitted by Ruth1991 on Tue, 18/10/2022 - 04:21


Here in Argentina It is not a tradition to celebrate Halloween, but since a few years, people have been making private fancy parties, and kids have been asking for candies. I would like to adopt this tradition just to have a good time with friends and family.