It’s October the 31st, and across Britain and the USA, thousands of children are dressing up as monsters, ghosts and witches and going to their neighbours’ houses to ask for sweets or to play tricks on them if they refuse. Many houses have lanterns made from pumpkins in their windows. These lanterns have frightening faces cut into them.What is the reason for all of this? It’s Halloween! To an outsider, this may seem a strange festival, but it is a very popular one and an important part of the culture in Britain and the USA. But how did it start?
The holiday once had a religious significance. November the 1st is All Saint’s Day, and October the 31st was believed to be a day when all the spirits came back to the world of the living. In modern times, this has changed to be a day when children dress up as monsters, ghosts and witches.
Once they are dressed up children go to their neighbours’ houses. They knock on the door and shout ‘Trick or treat!’ Good neighbours, of course, give ‘treats’. These are usually sweets or chocolates.
Bad neighbours, however, may give nothing. If so, then the children play a ‘trick’ on them. This may be a simple practical joke. However, naughty children may do something worse, like throwing rubbish in the neighbour’s garden. Nowadays,
of course, most neighbours always give a treat. After all, it’s fun for the children.
Another tradition is to make lanterns from pumpkins. First, the inside of the pumpkin is removed. Then, a face is cut into the pumpkin, traditionally a smiling, devil face. Finally a candle is placed inside, and the lantern is put at the front of the house to keep evil spirits away.
There are many traditional games on Halloween, but the most common is ‘apple-bobbing’. It’s simple to play. Several apples are put floating in water.
Children then have their hands tied behind their backs. They then have to try to pick the apples out of the water using only their mouths. Of course, people get very wet and it is very funny to watch.