Two thousand years ago, when the Celts occupied what we know as Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, they celebrated the new year on November 1st. The festival we now know as Halloween was once called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Winter was a cold, uncompromising time in Northern Europe and was often associated with death. The Celts believed that on New Year's Eve (October 31st), the line between the spirit world and ours became blurred. Spirits were able to cross over on this evening and could stay if they were able to find a body to possess*. Obviously the living didn't want to have another spirit inside of them, so they made their homes as uninviting as possible and often dressed up like ghouls to scare the spirits away. In the 800s, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints' Day, as a church-sanctioned alternative to the Celtic holiday of the dead. This was also called All-Hallow's and All-Hallowmas, and the evening preceding it came to be known as All-Hallow's Eve, and later Halloween.

Trick or Treat!
The American custom of "trick-or-treating" was first seen in England during the early All-Hallow's parades. Poor people would sit at the side of the parade and beg for food and families distributed rich pastries** ("soul cakes") in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives. This custom was soon taken up by children, who went house to house asking for money, food, and ale***.

Modern Traditions
As more immigrants flooded to America in the second half of the nineteenth century, the festival of Halloween came with them. Drawing on Celtic**** and English tradition, Americans began dressing up in colourful costumes and celebrating the feast of the dead. In the late 1800s, there was a move to make Halloween a more community-oriented holiday, shifting the focus away from ghosts and witchcraft.

Because of these efforts, much of the superstition of Halloween was lost, replaced by parades, games and parties that were fun for the whole family. The practice of trick-or-treating was revived in the 1920s as a way for the whole village to participate in the celebration. In theory, families could prevent tricks from being played on them by giving small treats to the neighbourhood children. Halloween has continued to grow strong over the years and Americans now spend an estimated 6.9 billion dollars on costumes and candy per year, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

In theory, families could prevent tricks from being played on them by giving small treats to the neighbourhood children.

Alliteration: The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables:
Noun: Trick or Treat!
By using the same letter at the beginning of several words in phrases or sentences, we can emphasize sounds and draw attention to sounds. Doing so makes the word or sound stand out, and this technique is often used in the media to attract the audience attention.

Just for Fun
Why not try using alliteration yourself, by thinking of topics that might be used in a newspaper. Try and create catchy headlines to attract the reader.
With a Friend:
Why not cut out headlines from a newspaper and subtract a word from each headline. See if your friend can guess what word is missing.

The Origins of Halloween - Quiz:
See how much you have understood about Halloween by answering the following questions:

1) When did the Celts celebrate New Year?

 a. January 1st

 b. November 1st

 c. October 31st


2) What was the name of the festival celebrated by the Celts?

 a. Samhain

 b. Halloween

 c. All-hallows eve


3) What did the Celts dress up as in an attempt to scare away the spirits?

 a. witches

 b. ghouls

 c. zombies


4) Who designated November 1st as All Saints' Day?

 a. the Catholic church

 b. Queen Elizabeth

 c. Pope Boniface IV


5) What two names were also given to All Saints' Day?

 a. Hallowmas and Halloween

 b. All-hallows eve and Halloween

 c. All-hallows and All-Hallowmas


6) What is the name of the American custom first seen in England during the early All-Hallows parades?

 a. trick-or-treating

 b. dressing up

 c. feast of the dead


7) What did the poor promise to the rich in return for food?

 a. They promised to take their children house to house asking for money, food, and ale.

 b. They promised to pray for the family's dead relatives.

 c. They promised to look after the graves of their dead relatives.


8) How could families prevent tricks from being played on them?

 a. by dressing up in scary costumes

 b. by scaring the neighbourhood children

 c. by giving small treats to the 'Trick or Treaters'


9) What was the superstition of Halloween replaced by?

 a. scaring your neighbours

 b. Parades, games, and parties

 c. buying expensive costumes and candy


10) What is the estimated amount of money spent on costumes and candy in celebration of Halloween in America?

 a. 9.6 billion dollars

 b. 6.9 billion dollars

 c. 6.9 million dollars

Dictionary Definitions

Possess *noun
 To gain or exert influence or control over; dominate: Fury possessed me. To control or maintain (one's nature) in a particular condition: I possessed my temper despite the insult.

Pastries **noun
 Dough or paste consisting primarily of flour, water, and shortening that is baked and often used as a crust for foods such as pies and tarts.

Ale ***noun
 A fermented alcoholic beverage containing malt and hops, similar to but heavier than beer.

Celtic ****noun
 A subfamily of the Indo-European language family comprising the Insular and the Continental branches.

Quiz Answers:
1- b
2- a
3- b
4- c
5- c
6- a
7- b
8- c
9- b
10- b