31st October is Halloween. It is a fun event in the United States, Great Britain and, now, in many other countries, too.
Halloween has Celtic origins. The Celtic calendar was in two parts: summer and winter. Summer was from May to the end of October, and winter was from November to the end of April. The ancient Celtic festivity Samhain celebrated the end of the year: the start of winter. It began on the evenings of 31st October and continued until the next day.
Druids were Celtic priests. On 31st October they performed religious rituals and talked about future events. The Celts believed that ghosts, witches and evil spirits returned on the night of 31st October. They believed that evil spirits entered the body of a person or animal. They wore frightening costumes and made big fires to send them away.
The colours of Halloween, orange and black, are of Celtic origin, too. Orange was the colour of the harvest, and black was the colour of winter and long nights. The Druids believed that black cats have become symbols of Halloween.
The Romans invaded Great Britain in AD 43. After this invasion Samhain became a harvest festival, and on 31st October the Romans honoured their goddess of fruit trees, Pomona.
During the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church put Christian festivities in the place of pre-Christian festivities. In the 8th century the Church decided to call 1st November All Saints’ Day. Another name for this day was All Hallows’ Day. The evening of 31st October was All Hallows' Eve. This became Halloween.
Halloween is celebrated in the USA, and has become popular in Europe, too. Many children and adults go to Halloween parties, wearing scary costumes and masks.
There party games. One is called “bobbing for apples”. To play this game you put water and apples in a big bowl. The apples stay on top of the water. You must take an apple out of the water with your teeth, but you can’t use your hands.
It is a popular tradition in the USA to buy a big pumpkin and make a jack-o’-lantern. People put their jack-o’-lanterns in front of the windows of their homes or in their gardens. This tradition originated in Great Britain and Ireland, when people wanted to frighten evil spirits. But they didn’t use pumpkins then, they used big turnips. In the USA there weren’t any turnips, so people used pumpkins.
Another popular Halloween tradition is “trick or treating”. This began in the 19th century and was an Irish tradition. Irish immigrants brought “trick or treating” to the USA.
Today children and teenagers go “trick or treating” in the evening. They visit their neighbours’ houses in their costumes. When the door opens they say “Trick or treat?” People usually give the children sweets or money. But when people don’t give them a treat, the children play a trick.