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Halloween

Many people around the world celebrate Halloween, which occurs annually on October 31. It is also known as All Hallows’ Eve and is the day before All Saints’ Day. Costume parties are held and many children go trick-or-treating around this time of the year.

Group of children in a Trick or Treating during Halloween

Costume parties are held on or around Halloween.

©iStockphoto.com/ sjlocke

What do people do?

Halloween celebrations include costume parties where people dress as witches, ghosts, and animal figures associated with Halloween, or as fictitious characters from horror films, television shows or books. Costume parties are often held at people’s homes, a hired venue, or venues that are supposedly haunted.

Many schools around the world, including international schools, celebrate Halloween by hosting costume parades and award prizes for creative costumes. Schools also provide fun classroom activities such as bobbing for apples, Halloween-themed coloring or drawing contests, and other games associated with Halloween. Students also learn about the observance’s origins and history.

Many children dress in costumes and form groups that are accompanied by adults to embark on a trick-or-treating adventure. This activity involves children knocking on doors in their local neighborhood and requesting a trick or treat. Some people give out treats while others request a trick, which often involves children presenting a small joke or trick. Many homes are decorated to fit the Halloween theme during this period. Decorations include fake cobwebs, jack-o-lanterns and images of black cats or witches.

Public life

Halloween is an observance in many countries and not a public holiday. It is observed in countries such as (but not exclusive to) Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Background

Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic harvest festival known as Samhain, which was the eve of the Celtic New Year. People paid tribute to Samhain, the lord of death, to honor the dying year and souls who were no longer among the living. It was believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest on this night.

The sun god was also honored in thanksgiving for the harvest and a central part of the festival was lighting a bonfire, a reflection of the sun.  This date later became known as All Hallows’ Eve during early Christian times and was a time to pray for the dead and honor the saints.

Many people participating in Halloween celebrations in modern times light candles in jack-o-lanterns rather than bonfires. Other elements of the Pagan celebration are retained, as Halloween is still a night to remember the spirits and other supernatural themes.

Symbols

There are many Halloween symbols. Symbols include animals, such as black cats, bats and spiders, and figures, such as ghosts, skeletons, witches and wizards. Pumpkins, graveyards, cobwebs, haunted houses and the colors green, orange, grey and black are also associated with Halloween. These symbols are used to decorate homes and party venues and are seen on costumes, gift paper, cards, cookies, cakes and candy.

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