Did you know?…Halloween

The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening, also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve.

31st October. Pumpkins aplenty


The history of Halloween goes back more than 2,000 years. The earliest celebrations of Halloween – or Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), were among the Celtic people and it had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead.

The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter.


The ancient Gaels believed that on 31st October, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats to the area.

Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them.

Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as of Australia and New Zealand.

Halloween Worldwide

Halloween is popular in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australasia.

Due to increased cultural influence in recent years – largely from the US (surprise, surprise), trick-or-treating is quite common place among children in many parts of Europe, and in the Saudi Aramco camps of Dhahran, Akaria compounds and Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia.

Halloween costumes

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages.

Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.

Sweets; the real excitement of Halloween for kids?

Sweets; the real excitement of Halloween for kids?

Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

The Bard. Not someone you commonly associate with Halloween

The Bard. Not someone you commonly associate with Halloween


Trick-or-treating, one of the main traditions of Halloween for children on or around Halloween in which they proceed from house to house in costumes, asking for treats such as confectionery with the question, “Trick or treat?”

In Ohio, Iowa, and Massachusetts, the night designated for Trick-or-Treating is often referred to as Beggars Night.

The “trick” part of “trick or treat” is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating has become socially expected that if one lives in a neighbourhood with children one should purchase treats in preparation for trick-or-treaters.

The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English-speaking North America occurs in 1911. It was at this time a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbours to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs.

Thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-treating spread from the western United States eastward, stalled by sugar rationing that began in April 1942 during World War II and did not end until June 1947.

Early national attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947, and the now widespread-custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952.

It was also at this time that UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.

 Jack-o’ Lantern (sometimes also spelled Jack O’Lantern) is typically what we Brits know as a carved pumpkin.

Mr & Mrs Pumpkin

Typically the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto the outside surface, and the lid replaced. During the night, a candle is placed inside to illuminate the effect.

So where does the Jack element come from? In folklore, an old Irish folk tale tells of Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who uses a cross to trap the Devil. One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn’t get down. Another myth says that Jack put a key in the Devil’s pocket while he was suspended upside-down.

Food Fest

For kids, Halloween means sweets, sweets, treats and more sweets.

However as Halloween comes in the wake of the yearly apple harvest in the Northern Hemisphere, toffee apples are common Halloween treats

Other such goodies at Halloween worldwide include:

  • Barmbrack      (Ireland)
  • Bonfire      toffee (UK and Ireland)
  • Toffee      apples (UK and Ireland)
  • Candy      apples, Candy corn, candy pumpkins (North America)
  • Monkey      nuts (peanuts in their shells) (Scotland and Ireland)
  • Caramel      apples
  • Caramel      corn
  • Novelty      candy shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms, etc.
  • Pumpkin,      pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread
  • Roasted      pumpkin seeds
  • Roasted      sweet corn
  • Soul      cakes
  • Scary Faced Pizza

2 thoughts on “Did you know?…Halloween

  1. Pingback: That was the month just gone | Karl Quinney

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