Halloween: Learn the history, scary stories, and mysteries about one of best festivals in the world.

The History of Halloween

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The history of Halloween

Halloween is a time to celebrate the dead and is full of superstitions and scary stories. It is believed to have originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to scare off ghosts and protect them in the winter.

The Celts, a group of people who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their New Year on November 1. This day was to show the end of summer and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often linked with death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, October 31st, ghosts of dead relatives returned to walk the earth. As a way to scare away the ghosts, bonfires were lit everywhere.

By 43 A.D., the Romans invaded the Celtic lands and took control. During the four hundred years that they controlled the Celtic lands, two Roman festivals were combined with the Celtic festival Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans remembered the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple which explains the traditional game of “apple bobbing” on Halloween.

Recent history

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III chose November 1 as a time to honor all saints. The holiday, All Saints’ Day, included some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later became known as ‘Halloween’. It became a fun festival with many fun activities for everyone to simply relax and enjoy.

In a number of countries around the world, as winter comes and the days grow shorter and colder, people continue to bring in the winter season with parties, wearing fun costumes, scaring each other, and giving each other sweets as a fun way to remember the dead and scare away the ghosts that hide in the night.

Halloween Traditions

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Trick-or-treating

The Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back as far as the 16th century in England. There was a festival called All Souls’ Day, where the poor people would sing or beg for food. Rich Families would give them food called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.

The giving of soul cakes was encouraged by the church and eventually changed where children would visit the houses in their neighbourhood and be given drinks, food, or money.

Today, children usually dress up in fun or scary costumes and when they knock on the door, they have to say ‘Trick or treat’. If the homeowner says trick, the children must perform a trick such as sing a song or tell a joke. However, the homeowner can simply say ‘Treat’, and just give the children sweets or money and wish them a happy Halloween. But for me, I always say ‘trick’ as I like to see them earn their sweets.

Fancy dress & wearing masks

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween dates back hundreds of years ago when winter was a dark and scary time, and people were afraid of the dark cold nights. On Halloween night, when it was believed that ghosts came back to scare us, people thought that they would see ghosts following them if they walked outside at night.

To stop themselves being seen by these ghosts, people would wear masks so the ghosts would think that they were ghosts too and leave them alone. Does it work you may ask? Well why not try it for yourself. Good luck and god bless.

This superstition grew and now, all around the world on Halloween night there will be a fancy dress party where you will see many people dressed up in various costumes such as a dead doctor, a witch or a skeleton, and wearing scary masks to scare away any ghosts that might be wandering around in the dark. So be prepared if you go out on Halloween night!

Apple bobbing

“Apple bobbing”, is thought to have originated from a Roman festival held on November first to celebrate Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple which can explain the traditional game of “apple bobbing” on Halloween. However, no one can be sure where the idea came from, but one thing is true, it is a fun game for everyone to let their hair down [Relax] and go crazy.

The game is played by filling a large basin with water and putting apples in the water. Players then try to catch one with their teeth without using their arms. Sometimes the arms are placed behind their back to prevent any cheating. They then usually compete against each other to see how many apples they can get.

If you go to a Halloween party you will most likely see this game because when people think of Halloween, they think of the traditional game of “apple bobbing”.

Jack O' Lantern

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Introduction

Every Halloween, pumpkins with scary and funny faces are seen on doorsteps and behind windows all over the world. The idea of the “jack-o’-lanterns” originated in Ireland and Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, where it became an integral part of Halloween throughout the world.

The Legend of “Stingy Jack”  

People have been making “jack-o’-lanterns” for centuries. But where did the idea come from you may ask. The idea comes from the Irish story about a man called “Stingy Jack.” One day, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. However, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks.

Once the Devil changed into a coin, Jack decided to keep the money and put it next to a silver cross, which stopped the Devil from changing back into himself. Jack made the devil promise that he would not see him for one year and if he should die, he would not take him to hell. After the Devil made the promise, Jack let the devil change back into himself.

The following year, Jack again met the devil and this time convinced him to climb a tree to get some fruit. While he was up the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree so that the Devil could not come down, until he promised Jack not to see him for ten more years. Having no choice, the Devil agreed.

Soon after, Jack died, but because he made an agreement with the devil, God would not allow Jack into heaven. The Devil, who was also unhappy with Jack, would not allow Jack into hell. Having no choice, he set off into the dark night with only some burning coal to light his way. Jack cut out the inside of a turnip and put the coal into it using it as a light. He has been roaming the Earth and scaring people with it ever since.

The Irish gave him the name “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’ Lantern.” Legend says that on Halloween night he will try and enter people’s homes, and only the “Jack O’ Lantern” can scare him away.

So, get to the shops, buy your Jack of the Lantern, and stingy Jack will keep his distance.

How it spread around the world  

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own stories of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes, and placing them near windows or near doors to scare away Stingy Jack and other ghosts from entering their home.

Immigrants from these countries brought the jack O’ lantern tradition with them when they immigrated to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, made a perfect jack-o’-lantern.

It was from this time, that pumpkins were used to make the world-famous Jack O’ Lantern that we see today. Remember, to always place your pumpkin outside your door or near the window to make sure that “Stingy Jack” cannot enter. Good luck, keep calm, and carry on!

How to make a Jack O' Lantern

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First you need to prepare the materials

- A pumpkin

- A spoon

- A Marker Pen

- A knife

- One Candle

 

Vocabulary

Cut                           

This just means to separate one thing from another. An example is cutting a piece of paper into two pieces.

Carve                       

This is similar to cut, however, when you carve something you carve out a shape. You have to be more careful because you want to keep the shape that you want.

 

Cutting out the top

You need to first cut out a lid at the top of the pumpkin. Make sure it’s big enough to place a candle inside, and for you to put your hands inside also. You must angle the cut about 45 degrees so that when you put the lid back on, it doesn’t fall through into the pumpkin.

The lid doesn't have to be cut in a circle. You can try shaping the lid as a square, a star or other shapes. Be creative! Just make sure you cut out the lid with a 45-degree angle, don’t cut straight down. See photo.

Scooping out the pumpkin

Using the spoon, scoop out [see photo] the inside of the pumpkin. Make sure you take everything out and clean it properly so that more light can shine through your Jack O' lantern.

Sketching the face & carving the pumpkin

With a marker pen, draw any shape that you want on the pumpkin. After, use a knife to carve out the shape that you want. Be careful when using the knife.

The scarier the better! Be creative, go crazy, and have fun with it!

Light the Pumpkin and display your Jack O’ Lantern

After you have carved out the shape that you want, you can light the candle and place it inside the Jack O’ lantern. Put the lid back on and now you are ready to go. Place it outside near the front door or near the window to scare away ghosts and of course, Stingy jack.

 

Halloween Superstitions

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Introduction

Halloween has always been a holiday full of superstitions and mystery. If you are superstitious then I suggest reading the ones below, so you don’t give yourself bad luck on Halloween night.

1.

Some people believe that anyone born on Halloween has the ability to see and talk to dead people. If you have this ability you are known as a medium.

2.

If you light an orange candle at midnight on Halloween and let it burn till sunrise, it will bring you good luck.

However, if the candle blows out, it is a sign that evil ghosts are nearby. So be careful not to let it blow out, or else! Keep the windows closed and hope for the best!

3.

It is believed that witches can change into black cats. Furthermore, if a black cat was to walk in front of you, you would have to turn around and go back because many people believe if you continue, bad luck will happen. Also, if you hurt a black cat on Halloween you'll have seven years of bad luck. In addition, if a black cat meows near your front door or near your window, death will soon happen in the family.

Here’s some friendly advice for those of you that have a black cat. I suggest asking your friend, or someone you don’t like, to look after it on Halloween night.  

And for those of you that are feeling brave and want to meet a witch, you have to put your clothes on inside out and walk backwards on Halloween night. Then at midnight you would see a Witch. Are you brave enough to see if this superstition is true? Try it next October 31st.

4.

If you see a spider on Halloween, don’t kill it because it might be the spirit of a dead family member who has come to watch over you. So, just say hi, keep calm, and carry on!

Or, if you have any English tea, make it a nice cup of tea, relax, and chat about some good old times [Good memories in the past].

5.

If a bat flies around your house three times on Halloween night, someone in the house is going to die. So I suggest not living anywhere near bats or bad luck might happen.

6.

If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, whatever you do, don’t turn around and look because it might be Death himself. His name is the Grim Reaper.

The belief is that if you look Death in the face he will come for you within the next year.

So, keep calm, don’t turn around, and run home as fast as you can!

7.

Girls who carry a lamp to a spring on Halloween night can see their future husband in the reflection of the water. But be careful, because they might turn out to be very, very ugly!

So good luck, and I hope that he is the prince that you have been looking for.

The Most Haunted Places in Britain

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Introduction

Britain is well known for being home to numerous haunted buildings and has attracted many visitors during Halloween to walk around at night on scary ghost tours. If you visit Britain during Halloween, make sure you explore Britain’s most haunted places before you leave.

Here are some of the most haunted places in the UK – visit if you dare!

England:  The Tower of London

The Tower of London has more than a thousand years of history and many people, such as kings and queens have been executed here. It is awe-inspiring with a rich history. However, it is also believed to be the most haunted building in England.

The Wakefield Tower is haunted by the ghost of Henry VI [6th], who was murdered here one hour before midnight on 21st May 1471. On the anniversary of his murder, Henry’s ghost is believed to appear as the clock nears midnight, and walks around the Wakefield Tower until just before midnight when he disappears again for another year.

The most famous ghost in the Tower is Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII [8th]. She was arrested and beheaded on the 19th of May 1536. Many people have also said to have seen her ghost. She often appears close to where she was executed, and several people have also seen her ghost walking around other rooms in the Tower.

And let’s not forget the story of the two young princes, Edward V [5th] and his brother Richard. When they were alive, they were often seen playing around happily inside the Tower of London but one day vanished and were never seen again. It was believed that they were murdered by their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Two skeletons, believed to be the children, were found in the White Tower. The ghosts of the children are often seen wandering around the rooms at night.

So, are you brave enough to walk around the Tower on Halloween night? If you are, then you can go on the ghost tour in the evening and be shown around by the beef eaters [The Tower guards]. Good luck, and be careful!

Scotland: Niddry Street Vaults, Edinburgh

This place is VERY frightening!

Dating back to the 1700s [Hundreds], this is one of three the vaults underneath the city of Edinburgh. Towards the end of the 18th Century, the Niddry Street Vaults became home to numerous people, such as murderers, who wanted to hide from the law. There were shops for illegal trade and homes hidden from daily life. It is also believed that many dead bodies have been hidden in the tunnels.

There are no written records of the vaults, but it is believed to have been closed sometime in the mid-19th Century. The vaults were found in the 1980s and numerous things were discovered to show what life was like in these dark and scary tunnels.

Today, it is now a tourist attraction, but there have been many stories of ghosts and some where visitors were attacked by them. Lights placed in the rooms so that tourists could see have suddenly gone out for no reason at all. Even the lights put in to replace the broken ones did not work. Because of this, no more lights have been put in so now, it is in complete darkness. For those that are determined to visit, you have to carry your own light to see where you are going.

Do you have the courage to walk down these dark scary tunnels on Halloween night to discover how people once lived? If you do, take a trip to the historic city of Edinburgh to see if you really are brave enough to enter these tunnels that are deep underground.

Wales: Whittington Castle

Whittington Castle is steeped in history with many stories of wars, death and legends. In addition, there are hundreds of people who have said that they have seen ghosts wandering around the castle walls.

A thousand years of wars and death have left numerous ghosts who walk around the castle at night, including a mysterious ghost in black who guards the castle gates.

However, the most frightening ghosts of the castle are the ghost children who are said to look out of the windows at the tourists as they explore the castle below. Children are already scary enough when they’re alive, so a midnight visit to Whittington Castle on Halloween night, might be too much for some! Visit if you dare and watch out for the children above!

Northern IrelandEringle Truagh Church, County Monaghan, Belfast

Everyone has had those first dates where everything goes wrong and you wish you had never met the person. Well this date is by far the worst one that you will ever go on. And to be honest, the last!

It is believed that when a funeral is held at the church, the last person to leave will experience this unlucky encounter. If you are a man, the ghost will appear as a beautiful woman and if you are a woman, the ghost will appear as a handsome man. It acts like a real person and asks if they can meet with you for a date. After you agree on a time, the ghost vanishes and is never seen again. However, the legend says that the date that you and the ghost agree to, is the day that you will die.

Now you know the legend, would you like to come and arrange a date with a beautiful or handsome ghost? Are you brave enough to see if the legend is true? Take a trip down to this historic Church to arrange the date of your dreams. Or not!