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Halloween in the United Kingdom

Halloween is an observance annually celebrated on October 31. Some people hold Halloween parties on or around this date, where the hosts and guests often dress up as skeletons, ghosts or other scary figures. Common symbols of Halloween include pumpkins, bats and spiders.

Is Halloween a Public Holiday?

Halloween is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Halloween UK

Witches' hats and carved pumpkins symbolize Halloween.

©iStockphoto.com/Nikolay Suslov

What Do People Do?

Halloween celebrations in the United Kingdom include parties where guests are often expected to arrive in a costume to reflect the day's theme. Other people gather together to watch horror films, either at home or at a cinema.

Some children go trick-or-treating. This means that they dress up and go to other peoples' houses, knocking on the door for treat of sweets or a snack. Those who do not give out a treat may be tricked with a joke instead.

Halloween has its origins in pagan festivals in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Many stores and businesses see Halloween as a chance to promote products with a Halloween theme.

Public Life

Halloween is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Schools, businesses, stores and other organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run on their normal timetables.

Background

Halloween has its origins in pagan festivals held around the end of October in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. People believed that, at this time of year, the spirits of dead people could come 'alive' and walk among the living. They thought that it was important to dress up in costumes when venturing outside, to avoid being harmed by the spirits. This may be the origin of the Halloween costumes seen today. In Puritan times, Halloween celebrations were outlawed, but they were revived in later times.

Halloween used to be called All Hallows Eve, or the day before All Saints' Day, observed on November 1. Halloween is also known as Nut-crack Night, Thump-the-door Night or Apple and Candle Night. Some people call Halloween Bob Apple Night or Duck Apple Night. This comes from a traditional game played at this time of year and known as 'apple bobbing' or 'apple ducking'. A bucket or other container is filled with water and one or more apples are floated on the water. The contestants take turns trying to catch an apple with their teeth. They must hold their hands behind their backs at all times.

Some people believe that apple bobbing is a reminder of the way women accused of witchcraft in the middle ages were tried. They were tied to a chair and repeatedly ducked into a river or pond. If a woman drowned, she was declared innocent. If she survived, she was declared a witch and burnt at the stake. Others think that apple bobbing is a way for young people to predict who they will marry or whether their partner is faithful.

Some aspects of the modern Halloween celebrations, such as carving lanterns out of vegetables originated long ago. Others were introduced more recently, often as a form of commercial promotion. Many customs originated in the United States and have travelled back to the United Kingdom.

Symbols

There are various symbols are associated with Halloween. The colors orange and black are very common. Other symbols include pumpkin lanterns, witches, wizards, ghosts, spirits and characters from horror films. Animals associated with the festival include bats, spiders and black cats.

About Halloween in other countries

Read more about Halloween.

Halloween Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015SatOct 31HalloweenObservance
2016MonOct 31HalloweenObservance
2017TueOct 31HalloweenObservance
2018WedOct 31HalloweenObservance
2019ThuOct 31HalloweenObservance
2020SatOct 31HalloweenObservance
2021SunOct 31HalloweenObservance
2022MonOct 31HalloweenObservance
2023TueOct 31HalloweenObservance
2024ThuOct 31HalloweenObservance
2025FriOct 31HalloweenObservance

We diligently research and continuously update our holiday dates and information. If you find a mistake, please let us know.

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