Halloween or Hallowe’en also known as All Hallows’ Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the eve before the Western Christian feast of All Hallows. The word Halloween was first used in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows’-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows’ Day. The Halloween holiday is commonly thought to have pagan roots, even though the etymology of the word is Christian. Some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in thefestival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning “summer’s end. Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. For instance, the carving of jack-o’-lanterns springs from the Samhain custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held inpurgatory. The imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula) and classic horror films (such as Frankenstein and The Mummy). One of the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne, who, in 1780, made note of pranks at Halloween; “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!”, as well as the supernatural associated with the night, “Bogies” (ghosts)
Trick-or-treating and Guising
Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, “Trick or treat?” The word “trick” refers to a (mostly idle) “threat” to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. In this custom the child performs some sort of trick, i.e. sings a song or tells a ghost story, to earn their treats. The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (1 November), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day (2 November). In Scotland and Ireland, Guising – children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins – is a traditional Halloween custom.
Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses. Dressing up in costumes and going “guising” was prevalent in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween by the late 19th century. Costuming became popular for Halloween parties in the US in the early 20th century, 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. Halloween costume parties generally fall on, or around, 31 October, often falling on the Friday or Saturday prior to Halloween.
Games and other activities
There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. One common game is dunking or apple bobbing, which may be called “dooking” in Scotland in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. A variant of dunking involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity that inevitably leads to a very sticky face. Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. A traditional Scottish form of divining one’s future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one’s shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse’s name. Unmarried women were told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of television series and Halloween-themed specials (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before the holiday, while new horror films are often released theatrically before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.
List of Scary Movies:
Halloween (1978) Superstition (1982) The Evil Dead (1981) The Exorcist (1973) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Dawn of the Dead (1978) The Omen (1976) Demons (1985) Hellraiser (1987)
Because the holiday comes in the wake of the annual apple harvest, candy apples (known as toffee apples outside North America), caramel or taffy apples are common Halloween treats made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, sometimes followed by rolling them in nuts. One custom that persists in modern-day Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays, the purchase) of a barmbrack (Irish: báirín breac), which is a light fruitcake, into which a plain ring, a coin and other charms are placed before baking. It is said that those who get a ring will find their true love in the ensuing year. This is similar to the tradition of king cake at the festival of Epiphany.