In the UK Halloween traditions are very much alive and popular. Here are some facts:
- Halloween is celebrated on 31st October. This isn’t a public holiday in Britain.
- Halloween is the night before the Catholic festival of All Saints and the pagan Celtic festival of Samhain (1st November).
- Halloween is also sometimes called All Hallows’ Eve, All Hallowtide and can also be written Hallowe’en.
- Halloween colours are orange and black. Orange is related to harvests because the end of October is the end of the harvest (the time when fruit and vegetables are collected). Black is related to death.
Most people connect the celebration of Halloween to North America. However, it is also a popular day of fun and spooky activities in the UK. The groups which seem to enjoy it most are children, teenagers and university students. Here are some of the most common activities:
These are pumpkins (an orange, football-sized vegetable) with the inside removed and a nose, eyes and mouth cut into one side. A candle is placed inside the empty pumpkin and the light creates a scary face effect. In the past people used potatoes or turnips to make lanterns but nowadays pumpkins are more popular. They are easier to cut and you can buy them in supermarkets. People use pumpkin lanterns to decorate their homes at Halloween.
To play this game, lots of apples are placed in a large tub or bowl of water. The competitors have to take a bite from one of the apples without using their hands. To make this more difficult, the competitors have their eyes covered with a scarf. You are not allowed to use the sides of the bowl to help you bite the apple. This game often involves getting very wet so it’s a good idea to bring a towel! Apple bobbing may be related to the ancient Roman festival of remembering the dead, which was also in October. The Romans remembered the goddess of trees and fruit, called Pomona. When they came to the UK, about 2,000 years ago, they continued with this tradition.
People of all ages dress up on Halloween. The most popular fancy dress costumes include witches, vampires, ghosts, skeletons, zombies or monsters. You can buy a costume from a shop or you can make your own costume at home. With the American election this year there are bound to be quite a few people both sides of the Atlantic dressing up as candidates.
Trick or treating
Children dress up and then visit the houses in their neighbourhood asking for a ‘trick or treat’. The neighbour gives them sweets or money as a ‘treat’. If there is no treat, the children play a trick on the neighbour, for example they might throw soap at the window. This custom is imported from the USA and is more popular with young people than with adults. The police in some parts of Britain give out ‚No trick or treat, please!’ posters for people to display on their door on the night of Halloween. Young children usually go trick or treating with parents or with an older sibling
If you are in Sheffield, in the north of England, at the end of October you can go to Fright Night. What is Fright Night? People in Sheffield say it’s ‚Britain’s Biggest Halloween Party’ and it attracts about 40,000 people each year. There are activities for kids, teenagers and adults including a fancy dress catwalk, urban dance, a monster in the fountain and a zombie garden, as well as the traditional apple bobbing and a competition for the best pumpkin lantern.
Watch a horror film or a play
Not in the mood for a Halloween party? Any film with the words ‚Halloween’, ‚Vampire’, ‚Dead’ or ‚Zombie’ in the title is probably going to be appropriate for the night. In Poland, this Halloween you could also book tickets to see the brilliant National Theatre Live stage play of Frankenstein at cinemas.
Free Halloween Activities and Games
Click here for free online English Halloween activities, fun and games for children. http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/category/topics/halloween
Click here for free online English Halloween activities, fun and games for teenagers. http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/uk-now/read-uk/halloween
Click here for free online English Halloween activities, fun and games for adults. http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/magazine/halloween