Halloween: the origins and the name

In Britain and the USA, the 31st of October is an important date in the calendar, especially for young children. It is the night of Halloween. The name comes from “All Hallows Eve” .The word ‘hallow’ means ‘holy, saint‘ and ‘eve’ means ‘the day or night before an important day’ so it is the day before 1st November.

Before Christianity, the first of November (All Saints’ Day) was the first day of the year. At this time, many people believed that bad spirits of the dead revisited their homes. They also believed that other evil spirits like witches and demons were free, too. For this reason they were scared and stayed at home.

However, nowadays it is a different story.

Today children have lots of fun on Halloween. They dress up as witches, devils, black cats, skeletons, vampires or other scary characters.

With the help of their parents, children make lanterns out of pumpkins (also called jack o’ lanterns)
To make a pumpkin lantern you cut out the insides and then cut out two eyes, a nose and a mouth in one side
of the pumpkin. Next, you put a candle inside the pumpkin and light it. Now you have a jack o’ lantern; you can make the faces as frightening as you like!

Small groups of children dressed up as witches, black cats, etc go into the street and knock on people’s doors. When a person opens the door, the children say “Trick or Treat?” (Dolcetto o scherzetto). Most people usually say “Treat” and give the children some sweets or small change (some money). However, if someone says “Trick”, then the children do something bad, for example, they put dirty water on the windows or car, ring the doorbell and run away, repeatedly knock on the window or throw flour on the floor… Water guns are very popular, too.

After spending the night Trick-or-Treating, the children go back home to eat the sweets. Sometimes, groups of friends have parties, where they eat food in the form of Halloween shapes, and play Halloween games. One game is called “Bobbing for Apples”. In this game you have to pick up an apple with your mouth from a bowl of water, with your hands behind your back (you can’t use your hands!). It’s very difficult and you get a wet face but you have a great time!