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 May Su on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 07:41

No I don't . The best consume I have ever seen was " Mr President"
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Fri, 05/06/2020 - 00:30

No. I don't. The best fancy dress I had ever seen is a typical one wore on rag day...just rag clothes to make a good funny combination.

Submitted by arthurqv on Wed, 30/10/2019 - 21:53

I am from Brazil and every 31October I celebrate Haalloween,me and my friends go trick or treating in the neighborhood. We pick candies for 3 months,that is crazy! The best fancy dress that I saw in all of this years, was from my friend Rafael, he was like a zombie with a blood bank on the hand. I dont remembervery well, but it was very scary!
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Submitted by Anaitat on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 20:41

I don’t celebrate Halloween, it is not a special day for me and for people of my generation in my country. But I can say that it is a fancy celebration between young people even in such country towns as my one and the possibility to make daily life more gaudy, colourful and interesting. In our orthodox background we preserve the tradition to leave food for our deceased familiars on the tables of our kitchens in the night of the day when we use remembering them according to the orthodox calendar.

Submitted by om mariam on Wed, 23/10/2019 - 06:25

useful and interesting article, just few days my daughter ask me about the origin of Halloween and I didn’t have an answer.We didn’t celebrate the Halloween but we watch it through movie and kids shows.But the tradition of presenting food or sweet for kids in a particular day is prevalence in many region around the world (including my country Sudan) with different names according to their culture.The remarkable thing that most of them related to believing in spirits of death people and ghosts.

Submitted by HRN1970 on Tue, 22/10/2019 - 21:22

It is about few years that some people in Iran celebrate Halloween, specially young rich people who are more familiar with and interested in western culture. Because of less freedom in Iran these parties are private and sometime troublesome for attendees!

Submitted by Olgierd on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 22:31

It's very interesting and useful article, thanks. Some things about old and modern Halloween traditions I have never known. Coz i didn't know about this day before reading this article. In China, we don't celebrate Halloween instead of that we celebrate the festival of the Qing Ming. We celebrated it on 4 May. It was also the time for ghosts to return to earth for a day. We placed food on ancestors' graves to commemorate our ancestors.
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Submitted by Freed on Fri, 17/05/2019 - 14:02

I think that this is a good magazine article
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Submitted by Shan on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 16:45

No i don't celebrate halloween becoz i didnt know about this day before reading this article.so for the halloween is concerned i used to afraid alot of the death people whenever i saw dead body then i didnt use to go in dark for some days as i afraid that the soul of that body wil be walking here and there.

Submitted by Farrukh Maqsood on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 13:00

It is absolutely interesting article, i always wonder from where did the Halloween festival come. It always fascinates me, although i belong to Asian continent and there is no such kind of festival, i really look forward to have one like this. Perhaps one day British civilisation will expand and we will enjoy this ancient celebration.