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October  2016             Cover Page

Halloween: Its Roots and Traditions Around the World

Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31st. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses" and carving jack-o-lanterns.

Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late 20th century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win").

The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects to the area, which attracted bats to the area. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.

Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them.

A jack-o'-lantern (sometimes also spelled Jack O'Lantern) is typically a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with Halloween. Typically, the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto the outside surface, and the lid replaced. During the night, a candle is placed inside to illuminate the effect. The term is not particularly common outside North America, although the practice of carving lanterns for Halloween is.


Halloween costumes are outfits worn on or around Halloween. Costuming became popular for Halloween parties in America in the early 1900s, as often for adults as for children. The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in the United States.

What sets Halloween costumes apart from costumes for other celebrations or days of dressing up is that they are often designed to imitate supernatural and scary beings. Costumes are traditionally those of monsters such as vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils.

There are also costumes of pop culture figures like presidents, or film, television, and cartoon characters.

Another popular trend is for women (and in some cases, men) to use Halloween as an excuse to wear particularly revealing costumes, showing off more skin than would be socially acceptable otherwise.

Halloween Originated in Ireland

Ireland is said to be the birthplace of Halloween. Much like the United States, the Irish celebrate the holiday with costumes, trick-or-treating, and community gatherings.

At those gatherings, typically after trick-or-treating, games are played, including a game called ‘snap-apple’. The game begins with an apple being tied to a doorframe or tree and players then attempt to bite the hanging apple. The game is much like ‘bobbing for apples’ here in the United States.

Halloween in Other Countries

A Halloween tradition in Austria involves bread, water and a lighted lamp. Some of the locals will leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before retiring on Halloween night. Considered a magical night, Halloween to Austrians was a way to welcome the dead souls back to earth.

In Belgium, some believe it is unlucky if a black cat enters a home or travels on a ship. Also, much like in the United States, Belgium citizens believe that it is unlucky for a black cat to cross one's path. On Halloween night, a custom there is to light candles in memory of dead relatives.

With the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1800s, modern Halloween celebrations in Canada began. Festivities include parties, trick-or-treating and the decorating of homes with pumpkins and corn stalks, as well as the carving of Jack O' Lanterns.

In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion "boats of the law" from paper, which are then burned in the evening hours. There are two purposes to this custom: as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits of the "pretas" in order that they might ascend to heaven. "Pretas" are the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were consequently never buried.


On Halloween night in Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside. One chair is placed to commemorate each living family member and one for each family member's spirit.

While the Irish and Scots preferred turnips, English children made "punkies" out of large beets, upon which they carved a design of their choice. Then, they would carry their "punkies" through the streets while singing the "Punkie Night Song" as they knocked on doors and asked for money. Halloween became Guy Fawkes Night and moved a few days later. Recently, it has been celebrated on October 31st, in addition to Guy Fawkes Night.


Britain - Guy Fawkes Day
On the evening of November 5th, bonfires are lit throughout England. Effigies are burned and fireworks are set off. Although the day is around the same time and has some similar traditions, this celebration has little to do with Halloween. As Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation began to spread, the celebration of Halloween ended. In 1517, on Halloween, Martin Luther attempted to begin reformation of the Catholic Church. The formation of the Protestant Church was the result instead. They didn't believe in saints; therefore, they had no reason to celebrate the eve of All Saints' Day. However, a new autumn ritual did materialize. Guy Fawkes Day festivities were designed to commemorate the execution of a notorious English traitor, Guy Fawkes.

France - la fête d'Halloween
In France, Halloween is not celebrated to honor the dead. It is considered an ‘American Holiday’ and until 1996, it was virtually unknown in the country.

However, because of the love of parties, fêtes’ and costume events in France, a rapid rise of the holiday has been noticed in recent years.

Foreign residents brought details of Halloween to the country for years before remnants of the day began to stick in French culture. In 1982, the American Dream bar/restaurant in Paris began celebrating Halloween.

The village of Saint Germain-en-Laye held a Halloween party on October 24th, 1996, in the middle of the day, to give locals an idea of what the holiday was all about.

To not risk harm to, or from the returning spirits, in Germany, people put away their knives on Halloween night.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong calls their Halloween festivities, "Yue Lan", which translates into the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. It is believed that spirits roam the world for 24 hours. To bring comfort to the ghosts, some believe that burning pictures of fruit or money will reach the spirit world.

Halloween is known as "Alla Helgons Dag" in Sweden. It is celebrated from October 31st until November 6th. "Alla Helgons Dag" has an eve, which is either celebrated or becomes a shortened working day. The Friday prior to All Saint's Day is a short day for universities while school-age children are given a day of vacation.

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                                                                                                                                 Maureen L. Mills



Comments on September issue~

Suzanne, I am so impressed with your having enough faith in yourself to venture out and go on  such a long wonderful trip, and most of all, impressed that you knew when to turn

around and not go farther – realizing you did good by going as far as you did.



Suzanne, I enjoyed your ‘trip story’ so much that I had to read it again. Thank you for sharing such courage and insight. It made my day and gave me energy all day, and on top

of that; I went for a walk in the park and discovered my aching joints felt okay to do so. It has started me on a journey of doing this every week.



Suzanne, You inspire me.


September magazine is a delight. That chicken recipe is making my mouth water. Okay, I've got that out of the way. I love Peter's poem. So supportive and kind, not to mention

uplifting. Lastly,  the Ponderables have left me wondering about my earlobes. Adorable and thank you for sharing so much sweetness.