Halloween is celebrated every year on the 31st October, but do you know the origin of this celebration?
Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of « Samhain », when people used to light bonfires and wear costumes to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as « All Hallows’ Eve » and this later became known as « Halloween ».
Over the years, Halloween has evolved into a fun and family event with activities for children such as trick-or-treating, when children dress as monsters, ghosts and witches and knock on neighbours’ doors to ask for sweets and candy.
The story of Halloween can be used to illustrate the notion of myths and heroes (the different myths and legends surrounding the Halloween celebration) but also the notion of Spaces and Exchanges: Halloween started in America when immigrants came from Ireland (potato famine) and Scotland, bringing their customs and traditions to the United States. They were proud of their Celtic origins and they called Halloween « Oidche Shamhna » (Night of Samhain) and kept the traditional observances. The Jack-o-lantern is the festival light for Halloween and is the ancient symbol of a damned soul. Originally the Irish would carve out turnips as but when they emigrated to America they could not find many turnips. They found however an abundance of pumpkins and they have been an essential part of Halloween celebrations ever since. « Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century.
Here are a few links to help you learn about this day:
– The history of Halloween explained – link to a video with transcript and vocabulary explanations
– The real story behind Halloween – link to a video on the History channel
– Monster Quest – Are ghosts real? This is a 46-minute video about an investigation into the most haunted houses in America (don’t watch it alone!!)
– A reading comprehension about the history of Halloween with questions to check your understanding
– Myths and legends about Halloween