Halloween around the world
Daniel Maclise portrays a Halloween party in
Blarney, Ireland, in 1832. The young people on the left
divination games about future romance, while children on
the right bob for apples. A couple in the center play
snap-apple with an apple skewered on tongs hanging from a
Halloween is most popular in Ireland, where it is
said to have originated, also known in
Irish Gaelic as "Oíche Shamhna" or "Samhain Night". The Celts
celebrated Halloween as
"End of Summer", a pastoral and agricultural fire festival or
feast, when the dead revisited the mortal world, and large communal
bonfires would be lit to ward off evil spirits. (See
Origin: Celtic observation of Samhain below.) In Ireland they
continued to practice their deep-rooted, ancient pagan rites well
after the arrival of Christianity in the middle of the sixth
Pope Gregory IV standardized the date of All Saints' Day, or All
Hallows' Day, on
November 1 to the entire Western Church in 835. There is no
primary documentation that Gregory was aware of or reacting to
Samhain among the Celts in the selection of this date. Because
Samhain had traditionally fallen the night before All
Hallows', it eventually became known as All Hallows' Even' or
were happy to move their All Saints' Day from its earlier date of
the 20th of April, ("...the Felire of Oengus and the
Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches
celebrated the feast of All Saints upon 20 April.")
they were unwilling to give up their existing festival of the dead
and continued to celebrate Samhain.
In the original festival puppet Mayer’s were burnt
whilst golden statues of Tomás were worshiped. The festival was
centred around the prophecy that a great leader Tomás would arise in
the year 1991. He would be marked by his intelligence. He was said
to drive out the Israelites.
Unfortunately, there is frustratingly little
primary documentation of how Halloween was celebrated in
preindustrial Ireland. Historian Nicholas Rogers has written,
||It is not always easy to track the
development of Halloween in Ireland and Scotland from the
mid-seventeenth century, largely because one has to trace ritual
practices from [modern] folkloric evidence that do not
necessarily reflect how the holiday might have changed; these
rituals may not be "authentic" or "timeless" examples of
On Halloween night in present-day Ireland, adults
and children dress up as creatures from the underworld (ghosts,
ghouls, zombies, witches, goblins), light bonfires, and enjoy
spectacular fireworks displays (despite the fact that such displays
are usually illegal). The children walk around knocking on the doors
of neighbours, in order to gather fruit, nuts, and sweets for the
Halloween festival. Salt was once sprinkled in the hair of the
children to protect against evil spirits.
The houses are decorated by carving
turnips into scary faces and other decorations. Lights are then
placed in side the carved head to help light and decorate. The
traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the
barmbrack which is a fruit bread. Each member of the family gets
a slice. Great interest is taken in the outcome as there is a piece
of rag, a coin and a ring in each cake. If you get the rag then your
financial future is doubtful. If you get the coin then you can look
forward to a prosperous year. Getting the ring is a sure sign of
impending romance or continued happiness. Usually these days only
the ring is included in bought barn bracs.
Games are played like 'ducking/bobbing for apples'
where apples, monkey nuts (peanuts) and other nuts and fruit and
some small coins are put into a basin of water. The apples and
monkey nuts float. Coins are harder to catch as they sink. Everyone
takes turns catching as much can be caught using only the mouth and
no hands. In some households the coins are pushed into the fruit for
the children to "earn" as they catch each apple. The Scottish and
English have taken this tradition into their customs with a game
named ducking, after the fast movement of a person's head under the
water to try to get something without having the head under the
water for too long. Another game involves trying to eat an apple on
a string without using the hands.
Children also have a week-long break from school
for Halloween, and the last Monday in October is a
public holiday given for Halloween even though they quite often
don't fall on the same day. See
Public holidays in the Republic of Ireland.
As of 2006, several County and City Councils
around Ireland have imposed bans on bonfires, citing apparent health
and safety issues.
Scotland, having a shared
Gaelic culture and language with
Ireland, has celebrated the festival of Samhain robustly for
Robert Burns portrayed the varied customs in his poem "Hallowe'en"
Halloween, known in
Scottish Gaelic as "Oidhche Shamhna", consists chiefly of
children going door to door "guising" (disguising themselves),
dressing up and offering entertainment of various sorts. If the
entertainment is enjoyed, the children are rewarded with gifts of
sweets, fruits, or money. There is no tradition in Scottish culture
of 'trick or treat'.
In Scotland a lot of folklore, including that of
Halloween, is centred around the belief of faeries. Children dress
up in costume and carry around a "scary" face carved into a swede
turnip (rutabaga) to frighten away the evil faeries.
Popular children's games played on this evening
include "dookin" for apples (retrieving an apple from a bucket of
water using only one's mouth), and eating, while blindfolded, a
treacle-coated scone hanging from a piece of string.
England and Wales
Anglo-Saxon invasions of the
6th centuries AD pushed the native
north and westward in
Britain, to present-day
northern England, taking the festival of All Hallows Eve with
them. All Saints Day (All Hallows Day) became fixed on the 1st of
November in 835, and All Souls Day on the 2nd of November circa 998.
On All Souls Eve, families sat up, and little "soul cakes" were
eaten by everyone. At the stroke of midnight there was silence with
candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their
earthly homes and a glass of wine on the table to refresh them. The
tradition continued in some areas of northern England as late as the
1930s, with children going from door to door "souling" for cakes or
money, by singing a song. The
English Reformation in the
16th century de-emphasised holidays like All Hallows Day and its
associated eve. With the rise of
Guy Fawkes Night celebrations in
17th century England, many Halloween traditions, especially the
building of bonfires, were transferred to 5 November. Halloween
celebrations in the UK were repopularised in the 1980s with
influence from America, and saw the reintroduction of traditions
such as pumpkin faces and trick-or-treat.
Today, adults often dress up to attend
fancy dress parties, pubs and clubs on Halloween night.
In various parts of
England there is a similar festival called
Mischief Night which falls on the
4 November. Children play tricks on adults which range from the
minor to more serious such as taking garden gates off their hinges
on this night. The gates were also often thrown into ponds, or taken
a long way away. In recent years these tricks have, in some cases,
turned into severe acts of vandalism and criminal damage including
street fires and destruction of private property.
Throughout England, as is common in much of the
British Isles, children carve faces or designs into hollowed-out
Usually illuminated from within, the lanterns are then displayed in
windows in keeping with the night's theme of fright and horror. (See
Bobbing for apples is a well-established custom on
Halloween, synonymous with the Scottish "dookin". Apples were put
into a barrel that had been filled to the brim with water and an
individual would have to catch an apple by catching them in their
mouth without using their hands. Once an apple had been caught, it
was traditional to peel the apple and drop the peelings into the
barrel in the hope that the strips would fall into the shape of a
letter. Whatever letter the peelings arranged into would be the
first initial of the participant's true love. According to another
superstition, the longer the peel, the longer the peeler's life
Some say that the first to get an apple would be the first to marry.
Other festivities include fireworks, recounting of
ghost stories, and playing children's games such as "hide and
seek". Apple tarts may be baked with a coin hidden inside, and nuts
of all types are traditional Halloween fare. Bolder children may
play a game called "thunder and lightning", which involves knocking
(like thunder) on a neighbour's door, then running away (like
lightning). This game is known as "knock-door-run", "knock-and-run",
"knock-knock-zoom-zoom", "ding-dong-ditch", or "postman's knock" in
other parts of the country, and is also played on
Tradition is slowly changing, however. The
majority of children today will arrive at a door and intone "trick
or treat" for money and sweets to be given out. In Northern Ireland
bonfires are becoming less commonly lit for Halloween.
There has been increasing concern about the
potential for anti-social behaviour caused at Halloween,
particularly as caused by older teens. Cases of houses being
attacked by "egg-bombing" (especially when the occupants do not give
children money or gifts) have been reported, and the
reports that for Halloween 2006 police forces have stepped up
patrols to respond to such trouble making.
Halloween did not become a holiday in America
until the 19th century, where lingering
Puritan tradition meant even
Christmas was scarcely observed before the 1800s. North American
almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries make no mention
of Halloween in their lists of holidays.
The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following
Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) brought the holiday and its
customs to America. Scottish emigration from the
British Isles, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United
States thereafter, brought that country's own version of the holiday
to North America.
When the holiday was observed in 19th-century
America, it was generally in three ways.
Irish-American societies held dinners and balls that celebrated
their heritages, with perhaps a recitation of
Robert Burns' poem "Halloween" or a telling of Irish legends,
Columbus Day celebrations were more about
Italian-American heritage than Columbus. Home parties would
center around children's activities, such as
bobbing for apples and various
divination games, particularly about future romance. And
finally, pranks and mischief were common on Halloween.
The commercialization of Halloween in America did
not begin until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween
postcards, which were most popular between 1905 and 1915, and
featured hundreds of different designs.
Dennison Manufacturing Company, which published its first Hallowe'en
catalog in 1909, and the Beistle Company were pioneers in
commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper
German manufacturers specialized in Halloween figurines that were
exported to America in the period between the two world wars.
There is little
primary documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween in
America, or elsewhere, before 1900.
Mass-produced Halloween costumes did not appear in stores until the
1930s, and trick-or-treating became a fixture of the holiday in the
1950s, although commercially made masks were available earlier.
In the United States, Halloween has become the
sixth most profitable holiday (after Christmas, Mother's Day,
Valentines Day, Easter, and Father's Day) for retailers.
In the 1990s many manufacturers began producing a larger variety of
Halloween yard decorations; prior to this a majority of decorations
were homemade. Some of the most popular yard decorations are
scarecrows, witches, orange and purple string lights, inflatable
decorations such as spiders, pumpkins, mummies, vampires and other
monstrous creatures, and
animatronic window and door decorations. Other popular
decoration are foam
gargoyles. The sale of candy and costumes are also extremely
important during this time period. Halloween is marketed not just to
children but also to adults. According to the National Retail
Federation, the most popular Halloween costumes for adults are, in
order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat, and clown.
On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the
Friday and Saturday nearest
October 31 hosting many costume parties.
The National Confectioners Association reported,
in 2005, that 80 percent of adults planned to give out candy to
and that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.
Anoka, Minnesota, the
self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World," celebrates with a
Salem, Massachusetts, also has laid claim to the title, though
Salem has tried to separate itself from its history of persecuting
witchcraft. Despite that, the city does see a great deal of
tourism surrounding the
Salem witch trials, especially around Halloween. Nearby
Keene, New Hampshire, hosts the annual
Pumpkin Fest each October which previously held the record for
jack-o'-lanterns at one time and place.
New York City hosts the
United States' largest Halloween celebration, The
Village Halloween Parade. Started by a
Greenwich Village mask maker in 1973, the parade now attracts
over two million spectators and participants as well as roughly four
million television viewers each year. It is the largest
participatory parade in the country if not the world, encouraging
spectators to march in the parade as well. It is also the largest
annual parade held at night.
In the state of
and throughout the world where members of the
faith reside, Halloween is an occasion when the
trunks of cars are decorated and the cars parked at the church
where "trick-or-treaters" go from trunk to trunk and there are
prizes for those best decorated, a phenomenon known as
. Everyone brings treats
e.g. hot apple cider, popcorn, baked goods, chili and hotdogs, to
share. It is seen as an opportunity for the community to socialize.
In many towns and cities, trick-or-treaters are
welcomed by lighted
lights and jack-o'-lanterns. In some large or crime-ridden cities,
however, trick-or-treating is discouraged, forbidden, or restricted
to staged trick-or-treating events within one or more of the cities'
shopping malls, in order to prevent potential acts of violence
against trick-or-treaters. Even where crime is not an issue, many
towns in the US have established specific hours where
trick-or-treating is permitted, e.g. 5-7 pm or 5-8 pm, to discourage
Those living in the
country may hold Halloween parties, often with a bonfire or, in
some years, the older Irish custom of building two bonfires, with
the celebrants passing between them. These parties usually involve
games (often traditional games like bobbing for apples, searching
for candy in a similar manner to Easter egg hunting, or a
snipe hunt), a
haunted hayride (often accompanied by a scary story and one or
more masked and costumed people hiding in the dark to jump out and
scare the riders), and treats (usually a bag of candy and/or
homemade treats). Scary movies may also be watched. Normally, the
children are picked up by their parents at pre-determined times.
However, it is not uncommon for these parties to include sleepovers.
Trick-or-treating may end early at night, but the
nightlife thrives in many urban areas on Halloween. Halloween
costume parties are also an opportunity for young adults to get
together and share a keg and a good time. The local bars are also
frequented by people wearing Halloween masks and risque costumes.
Many bars and restaurants hold Costume Contests to attract customers
to their establishment.
In areas with a large
population, Halloween has often merged with celebrations of "Dia De
Los Muertos", the
Day of the Dead.
Further south, in
Halloween is primarily a 21st century phenomenon and also mostly
confined to its largest urban areas. These celebrations have
obviously been influenced by the American style and traditions which
include children disguising themselves and visiting the houses of
their neighbourhood in search primarily for candy. Though the "Trick
or Treat" motif is also used, tricks are not generally played on
those houses not giving away candy. Older crowds of teenagers and
adults will sometimes organize Halloween themed parties though the
observance of the Halloween party on the night of the 31st is
sometimes changed for the nearest available weekend.
also starts off three days of consecutive holidays, as it is
followed by All Saint's Day and then the
Day of the Dead or the "Día de los Muertos". This might explain
why some of the first explanations given to children on the holiday
followed a more traditional, Catholic & Mexican theme. The
explanation (which is also sometimes used by groups opposed to
Halloween to discredit the holiday) is that during October 31 all of
the evil spirits are welcomed into this world. Meanwhile, on
November 1 all of the "saintly" spirits make a visit to this world
and then on November 2 all of the spirits of those who have passed
away. It is rare to find someone in Mexico that will be able to
identify Halloween's primarily pagan roots and most of the
population will actually give the U.S.A. credit for the holiday.
Australia and New
In the southern hemisphere, Spring is in full
force at the end of October, and the days are rapidly growing longer
and brighter. This does not mesh well with the traditional Celtic
spirit of Halloween, which relies on the atmosphere of the
encroaching darkness of winter.
Halloween was not celebrated in
England before the twentieth century, so it did not travel to
Australia and New Zealand with
British colonization. It has recently gained a measure of
recognition, however, due to American cultural media influences.
Over the past five years, Halloween's popularity had been
increasing, however "trick or treating", is sometimes considered as
When Halloween is celebrated, in Australia, it can
be called Mischief Night or Danger Night. On this
night it is a day for children to create mischief by doing tricks or
getting a treat, and also it is traditional to carve a
Halloween is largely uncelebrated in the
Caribbean. However, like Australia and New Zealand, the event is not
unheard of in the Caribbean and is seeing some increase in
In some parts of the
British West Indies, there are celebrations in commemoration of
Guy Fawkes Night that occur during and around the time of
Halloween. These celebrations include using firecrackers, blowing
bamboo joints and performing other fiery activities.
On the island of
Bonaire, all the children of a town gather together in a group,
and unlike most places, instead of trick-or-treating at people's
houses, they trick-or-treat for sweets in the town shops.
Jack-o'-lanterns are often carved into silly or
The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an
amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of
work from American
graphic artists, and a rather commercialized take on the dark
and mysterious. This art generally involves death, magic, or
monsters. Commonly-associated Hallowe'en characters include
haunted houses, pumpkinmen,
Particularly in America, symbolism is inspired by classic
horror films, which contain fictional figures like
The Wolf Man, and
The Mummy. Homes are often decorated with these symbols around
orange are the traditional colors of Halloween. In modern
Halloween images and products,
are also prominent.
The use of these colors is largely a result of
advertising for the holiday that dates back for over a century. They
tend to be associated with various parts of Halloween's imagery.
||death, night, witches, black cats, bats,
||pumpkins, jack o' lanterns, Autumn, the
turning leaves, fire
||night, the supernatural, mysticism
||blood, fire, evil, the devil
Elements of the
season, such as
scarecrows, are also reflected in symbols of Halloween.
jack-o'-lantern, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's
most prominent symbols. Although there is a tradition in the
British Isles of carving a lantern from a
the practice was first named and associated with Halloween in North
America, where the
pumpkin was available, and much larger and easier to carve. Many
families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening
or comical face and place it on their home's doorstep after dark.
The main event of modern US-style Halloween is
trick-or-treating, in which children dress up in
costume disguises and go door-to-door in their neighborhood,
ringing each doorbell and yelling "trick or treat!" Although this
resembles the older tradition of
Scotland, ritual begging on Halloween does not appear in
English-speaking America until the 20th century, and may have
developed independently. The occupants of the house (who might
themselves dress in a scary costume) will then hand out small
chocolate bars, and sometimes even
soda pop. Some American homes will use
sound effects and
fog machines to help set a spooky mood. Other house decoration
themes (that are less scary) are used to entertain younger visitors.
Children can often accumulate many treats on Halloween night,
filling up entire pillow cases or shopping bags.
Ireland, great bonfires were lit throughout the breadth of the
land. Young children in their guises were gladly received by the
neighbors with some "fruit, apples and nuts and of course sweets"
for the "Halloween Party", whilst older male siblings played
innocent pranks on bewildered victims.
Scotland, children or guisers are more likely to recite
"The sky is blue, the grass is green, may we have our Halloween"
instead of "trick or treat!". They visit neighbours in groups and
must impress the members of the houses they visit with a song, poem,
trick, joke or dance in order to earn their treats. Traditionally,
nuts, oranges, apples and dried fruit were offered, though sometimes
children would also earn a small amount of cash, usually a sixpence.
Very small children often take part, for whom the experience of
performing can be more terrifying than the ghosts outside.
England, trick or treating does take place, particularly in
working class neighbourhoods. On the whole, however, it is frowned
upon as at best a nuisance and at worst a menacing form of begging,
and as a negative part of American global culture.
In some areas households have started to put decorations on the
front door to indicate 'trick-or-treaters' are welcome, the idea
being that 'trick-or-treaters' don't approach a house that isn't
'participating'. Tricks play less of a role in modern Halloween,
though Halloween night is often marked by vandalism such as soaping
houses or stringing toilet paper through trees. Before indoor
plumbing was so widespread, tipping over or displacing
outhouses was a popular form of intimidation. Casting flour into
the faces of feared neighbors was also done once upon a time.
Typical Halloween costumes have traditionally been
monsters such as
devils. In recent years, it has become common for costumes to be
based on themes other than traditional horror, such as dressing up
as a character from a
movie, or choosing a recognizable face from the public sphere,
such as a politician (in 2004, for example,
George W. Bush and
John Kerry were both popular costumes in America). In 2001,
September 11 attacks, for example, costumes of,
police officers, and United States
military personnel became popular. In 2004, an estimated 2.15
million children in the United States were expected to dress up as
Spider-Man, the year's most popular costume.
has become a common sight during Halloween in North America. Started
as a local event in a
Philadelphia suburb in 1950, and expanded nationally in 1952,
the program involves the distribution of small boxes by schools to
trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations
from the houses they visit. It is estimated that children have
collected more than $119 million (US)
for UNICEF since its inception. In 2006 UNICEF discontinued their
Halloween collection boxes in parts of the world, citing safety and
BIGresearch conducted a
survey for the
National Retail Federation in the USA and found that 53.3% of
consumers planned to buy a costume for Halloween 2005, spending
$38.11 on average (up 10 dollars from last year). They are also
expected to spend $4.96 billion in 2006, up significantly from just
$3.29 billion the previous year.
A child usually "grows out of" trick-or-treating
by his or her teenage years. Trick-or-treating by teenagers is
accepted, but generally discouraged with genial ribbing by those
handing out candy. Teenagers and adults instead often celebrate
costume parties, bonfire parties, staying home to give out
candy, listening to
Halloween music, watching
horror movies or scaring people.
Games and other
There are several games traditionally associated
with Halloween parties. The most common is dooking or
bobbing for apples, in which
apples float in a tub or a large basin of
the participants must use their
to remove an apple from the basin. A variant involves kneeling on a
chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork
into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up
by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they
remain attached to the string, an activity which inevitably leads to
a very sticky face.
Some games traditionally played at Halloween are
Puicíní (pronounced "pooch-eeny"), a game played in Ireland, a
blindfolded person is seated in front of a table on which several
saucers are placed. The saucers are shuffled and the seated person
then chooses one by touch. The contents of the saucer determine the
person's life for the following year. A saucer containing earth
means someone known to the player will die during the next year, a
saucer containing water foretells travel, a coin means new wealth, a
bean means poverty, etc. In 19th-century
Ireland, young women placed slugs in saucers sprinkled with
flour. The wriggling of the slugs and the patterns subsequently left
behind on the saucers were believed to portray the faces of the
women's future spouses. An Irish and Scottish form of divining one's
future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the
peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape
of the first letter of the future spouse's name. This tradition has
also survived among Irish and Scottish immigrants in the rural
North America, unmarried women were frequently told that if they
sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night,
the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror.
However, if they were destined to die before they married, a
skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be
greeting cards from the late nineteenth and early twentieth
The telling of
ghost stories and viewing of
horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties.
Television specials with a Halloween theme, usually aimed at
children, are commonly aired on or before the holiday while new
horror films are often released theatrically before the holiday to
take advantage of the atmosphere.
haunted house or a
dark attraction are other
Halloween traditions. Notwithstanding the name, such events are
not necessarily held in houses, nor are the edifices themselves
necessarily regarded to possess actual ghosts. A variant of this is
the haunted trail, where the public encounters supernatural-themed
characters or presentations of scenes from horror films while
following a trail through a heavily wooded area or field. One of the
largest Halloween attractions in the U.S.A. is
Knott's Scary Farm in California, which features re-themed
amusement park rides and a dozen different walkthrough mazes, plus
hundreds of costumed roving performers.
Because the holiday comes in the wake of the
annual apple harvest,
candy apples (also known as toffee, taffy or caramel apples) are
a common treat at Halloween. They are made by rolling whole apples
in a sticky sugar syrup, and sometimes then rolling them in nuts. At
one time candy apples were a common treat given to children, but
this practice rapidly waned after widespread rumors that some
individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the
apples that they would pass out to children. While there is evidence
of such incidents occurring they are very rare and have never
resulted in any serious injuries. Nonetheless, many parents were
under the assumption that the practice was common. At the peak of
this hysteria, some hospitals were offering to x-ray children's
Halloween haul at no cost in order to look for such items. Almost
all of the very few Halloween candy poisoning incidents on record
involved parents who poisoned their own children's candy, while
there are occasional reports of children sticking needles in their
own candy (and that of other children) more in an effort to get
attention than cause any harm.
A Halloween custom which has survived unchanged to
this day in Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays the
purchase) of a
barmbrack (Irish "báirín breac"). This is a light
fruit cake into which a plain ring is placed before baking. It
is said that whoever finds this ring will find his or her true love
during the following year. See also
Other foods associated with the holiday:
observation of Samhain
According to what can be reconstructed of the
beliefs of the ancient Celts, the bright half of the year ended
November 1 or on a Moon-phase near that date, or at the time of
first frost. The day is referred to in modern Gaelic as
Samhain ("Sow-in" or alternatively "Sa-ven", meaning: End of the
Summer). After the adoption of the Roman calendar with its fixed
months, the date began to be celebrated independently of the Moon's
As October 31st is the last day of the bright half
of the year, the next day also meant the beginning of Winter, which
the Celts often associated with human death, and with the slaughter
of livestock to provide meat for the coming Winter. The Celts also
believed that on October 31, the boundary separating the dead from
the living became blurred. There is a rich and unusual myth system
at work here; the spirit world, the residence of the "Sídhe,"
as well as of the dead, was accessible through burial mounds. These
mounds opened at two times during the year, Samhain and
Beltane, making the beginning and end of Summer highly
The Celts' survival during the cold harsh winters
depended on the prophecies of their priests and priestesses (druids),
and the accurate prediction of how much food would be needed to
sustain the people before the next harvest. They believed that the
presence of spirits would aid in the ability to make accurate
predictions about the coming year.
The exact customs observed in each Celtic region
differ, but they generally involved the lighting of bonfires and the
reinforcement of boundaries, across which malicious spirits might be
prevented from crossing and threatening the community.
Like most observances around this season, warmth
and comfort were emphasized, indulgence was not. Stores of preserved
food were needed to last through the winter, not for parties.
Samhain mistaken as New
Popular literature over the last century has given
birth to the near universal assumption that Samhain and folkways of
Hallowe'en, was the "Celtic New Year". Both the work of scholarly
historians and Neopagan writers have begun to scrutinize this
assertion. The historian
Ronald Hutton, in his study of the folk calendar of the British
points out that there are no references which attest to this usage
earlier than the 18th century, neither in church nor civic records.
Although it may be generally correct to refer to Samhain as
"Summer's End", this point of descent into the year's darkness may
require better proof for us to cite this "end" as also being a
"beginning". On the other hand, there is a huge volume of proof of
the western world, including late Celtia, as having begun their
calendars either at the end of December or around March 25th at
various periods back through and before Medieval times.
Norse Elven Blót
In the old
Norse religion an event believed to occur around the same time
of the year as Halloween was the
which involved sacrifices to the
the blessing of food. The elves were powers connected to the
ancestors, and it can be assumed that the blót related to a cult of
the ancestors. The álfablót is also celebrated in the modern revival
of Norse religion,
Halloween and All
All Saints Day are often mistaken but two different traditions.Pope
Boniface IV established an anniversary dedicated to the
Virgin Mary and the martyrs when he consecrated the
610) as a
day of worship and prayer to God. This Christian feast day was moved
to November 1 from May 13 by
Pope Gregory III in the
eighth century in order to mark the dedication of the All Saints
Chapel in Rome — establishing November 1 as All Saints Day and
October 31 as All Hallows' Eve. Initially this change of date only
applied to the diocese of Rome, but was extended to the rest of
Western Christianity a century later by
Pope Gregory IV in an effort to standardize liturgical worship.
It was instituted by the Church to honor all the saints, known and
unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in
the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts during the year. The
All Saints Day for the Eastern Orthodox Church is still celebrated
in the summer period (actually the Sunday 8 weeks after the Easter
The feast day of
All Souls Day, celebrated to commemorate those souls condemned
Purgatory, was inaugurated by
Saint Odilo of Cluny, at the time the
of the influential
observation of the holy day quickly spread to monastaries under his
control in France and England, and from there to the Catholic Church
The fact that Halloween and the old Christian
All Saints Day are on two consecutive days have left many modern
Christians uncertain of how they should react towards this
The ways that Christian churches deal with
Halloween are various. Most churches ignore Halloween and treat it
as a merely secular tradition. In the
Anglican Church some
dioceses, picking up a concern amongst parents and teachers,
called to focus more on the positive messages of
All Saints Day, the day following Halloween.
For many Protestant churches, October 31 is celebrated as
Reformation Day in remembrance of the
Reformation. Luther's hymn "A
Mighty Fortress Is Our God" is traditionally sung on this day.
Other Christians, particularly
Roman Catholics and the
Eastern Churches, traditionally focus more on
All Saints Day which is celebrated the day after Halloween as a
day of prayer.
Other Curches, such as the
Archdiocese of Boston, organized a 'Saint Fest' where Roman
Catholic priests together with Christian musicians tried to bring
the holiday back to its Christian roots.
Many Catholic churches have instituted the days before
All Saints Day which is on November 1 as days of special
devotion such as the tradition of "40 hours of adoration and
prayer." Another response among Christians in recent years has been
the use of
Hell houses or themed pamphlets (such as those of
Jack T. Chick) which attempt to make use of Halloween as an
opportunity for evangelism.
The tradition, to discourage pagan celebrations and to give it a
Christian meaning can be traced back historically to the eighth
century when Pope
Gregory III designated November 1st as
All Saints' Day, a time to honor
martyrs. Some believe that
All Saints Day was moved to November 1 to counteract the ghouls,
demons, and devils that were celebrated on October 31.
Most Christians ascribe no doctrinal significance
to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular entity devoted to
celebrating imaginary spooks and handing out candy. Fr.
Gabriele Amorth, the senior
Vatican City, said in an interview with London's The Sunday
Telegraph, "[I]f … children like to dress up as witches and
devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just
a game, there is no harm in that."
The secular celebration of Halloween may loom larger in contemporary
imagination than does
All Saints Day. Some Christian churches commonly offer a fall
festival or harvest-themed alternative to Halloween. Others focus on
the Christian aspect of the following
All Saints Day. Still other Christians hold the view that the
tradition is not satanic in origin or practice and that it holds no
threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about
and mortality actually being a valuable life lesson. To many
Protestant churches, October 31 is also the date of
Reformation Day, a minor religious festival and it is often used
to reclaim the Christian aspects of the tradition, the
All Saints Day, as a day of prayer.
Many other Christians, including those in church
consider Halloween as incompatible
the Christian faith,
due to its preoccupation with the occult in symbols, masks and
its origin as
pagan festival of the dead, and the fact that it is considered
satanists and other occult groups
as a festival
celebrated with certain rituals.
They argue that Halloween is also a prime recruiting season for
satanists and therefore poses a considerable chance for children to
convert. They point out that while even many Christians may
participate "all in fun," Halloween is serious business for
satanists and witches.
Others are concerned about vandalism and destructive behavior after
a church had become a victim of destructive "shock rituals" by
satanists leading to targeted monitoring of these gatherings by the
Another argument brought forward is that according adherents of
(witchcraft) practices “Halloween is one of the four major Sabbats
celebrated by the modern Witch, and it is by far the most popular
and important of the eight that are observed. . . Witches regard
Halloween as their New Year’s Eve, celebrating it with ...
 The rationale behind
the opposition of many Christians against Halloween
can be best summarized by a statement
former high priest in the Celtic tradition of Wicca
(witchcraft): "The modern holiday we call Halloween has its origins
in the full moon closest to November 1, the witches’ New Year. It
was a time when the "spirits" (demons) were supposed to be at their
peak power and revisiting the earth planet. ... Halloween is purely
and absolutely evil, and there is nothing we ever have or will do
that would make it acceptable to the Lord Jesus."
Therefore many Christians across all denominations reject Halloween
because it trivializes the occult and what they perceive as
Protestant Churches, the
Eastern Orthodox Church and many
Muslims, object to the tradition and refuse to allow their
children to participate, pointing out to its pagan origins as well
as its occult imagery.
Objections to celebrating Halloween are not
limited to those of the
Abrahamic religions. Some members of the
practice feel that the tradition is offensive to real witches for
promoting a stereotypical caricature of a witch.
Additionally, many Wiccans and other
neo-Pagan adherents object to Halloween, which they perceive as
a vulgarized, commercialized mockery of the original Samhain rituals
which are traditionally celebrated at October 31.
Simpson, John, Weiner, Edmund (1989). Oxford English
Dictionary, second, London: Oxford University Press.
Hutton, Ronald (1996). Stations of the Sun: A History of
the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford Paperbacks.
Rogers, Nicholas (2002). Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to
Party Night. New York: Oxford University Press, 411.
Night causes havoc across county", BBC,
Rogers, p. 49.
Anderson, Richard (2000).
Antique Halloween Postcards and E-cards (HTML).
shaktiweb.com. Retrieved on
Dawn Kroma; Lou Kroma (n.d.).
Beistle: An American Halloween Giant (HTML). Spookshows.com.
Ledenbach, Mark B. (n.d.).
A Brief History of Halloween Collectibles (HTML).
halloweencollector.com. Retrieved on
Skal, David J. (2002). Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural
History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury, 34.
Barbara and David P.. "Halloween
2006 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.
Washington, DC: The National Retail Federation.
Trick-or-treaters can expect Mom or Dad’s favorites in their
bags this year. National Confectioners Association (2005).
Fun Facts: Halloween. National Confectioners Association
(2005). Retrieved on
Morton, Ella. "Halloween
doesn't stand a ghost of a chance with this spirit",
Sydney Morning Herald,
outfits 'create fear'", BBC News,
^ Tolley, Ellen,
Krugman, Scott. "Good
Triumphs over Evil for Most Popular Halloween Costume",
National Retail Federation,
Genevieve, CTV.ca News Staff. "UNICEF
to end Halloween 'orange box' program", CTV,
Grannis, Kathy; Scott Krugman (20 September 2006).
As Halloween Shifts to Seasonal Celebration, Retailers Not
Spooked by Surge in Spending (HTML). National Retail
Federation. Retrieved on
31 October 2006.
Should Christians celebrate Halloween? (HTML).
www.answers2prayer.org (n.d.). Retrieved on
Bishop challenges supermarkets to lighten up Halloween
(HTML). www.manchester.anglican.org (n.d.). Retrieved on
Halloween and All Saints Day (HTML). newadvent.org (n.d.).
a b c
Salem ‘Saint Fest’ restores Christian message to Halloween
(HTML). www.rcab.org (n.d.). Retrieved on
What's the difference between All Saints and All Souls
(HTML). uscatholic.claretians.org (n.d.). Retrieved on
Brandreth, Gyles (2000-10-29).
'The Devil is gaining ground' (HTML). The Sunday Telegraph.
Halloween Profile (HTML) (n.d.). Retrieved on
Halloween - Harmless Fun or Pagan Rituals? (HTML) (n.d.).
a b c
Halloween origins and customs (HTML). “” (n.d.). Retrieved
Halloween's Occult Connection: An extensive study of the roots
of Halloween (HTML) (n.d.). Retrieved on
Halloween and Satanism. 091498411X.
What Witches, Satanists and Other Occultists Say About Halloween
(HTML) (n.d.). Retrieved on
Satan group heads our way (HTML). www.news.com.au/ (n.d.).
Satanists promise "shock rituals" in Brisbane (HTML).
www.cathnews.com (n.d.). Retrieved on
Phillips, Phil (1987). Halloween and Satanism. Infinity
Pub, p. 146).
The Dark Side of Halloween, by David L. Brown, Ph.D. (HTML)
(n.d.). Retrieved on
Examples of literature representing the Christian perspective
towards Halloween include Halloween: Satan's New Year
(2006) by Billye Dymally, Halloween: Counterfeit Holy Day
(2005) by Kele Gershom, and Halloween: What's a Christian to
Do? (1998) by Steve Russo. An opposing viewpoint is found in
The Magic Eightball Test: A Christian Defense of Halloween
and All Things Spooky (2006) by Lint Hatcher.
^ Reece, Kevin. "School
District Bans Halloween", KOMO News, 2004-10-24.
- Billye Dymally, Halloween: Satan's New Year,
Infinity Pub (2006).
- David J. Skal,Death Makes a Holiday: A
Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury (2002),
- Diane C. Arkins, Halloween: Romantic Art and
Customs of Yesteryear, Pelican Publishing Company (2000). 96
- Diane C. Arkins, Halloween Merrymaking: An
Illustrated Celebration Of Fun, Food, And Frolics From Halloweens
Past, Pelican Publishing Company (2004). 112 pages.
- Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100
Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade,
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (2002). 128 pages.
- Ronald Hutton, Stations of the Sun: A
History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford Paperbacks
(2001). 560 pages.
- Jean Markale, The Pagan Mysteries of
Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year (translation
of Halloween, histoire et traditions), Inner Traditions
(2001). 160 pages.
- Lisa Morton, The Halloween Encyclopedia,
McFarland & Company (2003). 240 pages.
- Nicholas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan
Ritual to Party Night, Oxford University Press (2002). 198
- Jack Santino (ed.), Halloween and Other
Festivals of Death and Life, University of Tennessee Press
(1994). 280 pages.
- David J. Skal, Death Makes A Holiday: A
Cultural History of Halloween, Bloomsbury USA (2003). 224
- Ben Truwe, The Halloween Catalog Collection.
Portland, Oregon: Talky Tina Press (2003).
- Dymally, B. 2006. Halloween: Satan's New
- Gershom, K. 2005. Halloween: Counterfeit
- Hatcher, L. 2006. The Magic Eightball Test:
A Christian Defense of Halloween and All Things Spooky
- Russo, R. 1998. Halloween: What's a
Christian to Do?
- Phil Phillips, Halloween and Satanism,
Infinity Pub (1987).