Halloween, a day of sweets, lights and scary stories

Holiday: Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve.


When? On 31 October.


Where? U.S.A. and many other countries.


The meaning and history. The word “Halloween” has a Christian origin and means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening”. It is considered that many Halloween traditions have pagan roots. They originated from Celtic harvest festivals and were Christianized later.


Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Saints' Day on 1 November and All Souls' Day on 2 November. These three days, called Allhallowtide, mean a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach heaven.


How it is celebrated. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve mean attending church services and lighting candles on the graves. In the United States, however, Halloween became a very fun secular holiday filled with sweets, lighting bonfires, scary movies, costume parties, decorating, and celebrating with friends. Preparation for Halloween usually starts at the beginning of October and involves decorating the home and picking out a costume (the most popular are the figures of vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches). Lots of homes are decorated for Halloween with hanging lights, spider webs, and other Haunted House themed decorations.


The week of Halloween, people usually buy pumpkins and carve them to decorate their doorstep. On Halloween, people put their carved pumpkins outside with a small candle inside: these are called “Jack-o-Lanterns”. Children typically spend their time at school in costumes and have parties with their classes. At evening, they go “trick-or-treating” by walking door to door in their neighborhood and asking for candy. In order to get candy, children must be in a costume and say “Trick or treat”. Adults normally celebrate Halloween by attending costume parties, visiting Haunted Houses, or going to Halloween celebrations at bars. Everyone gets into the spirit and ends up eating a lot of candy!


Family traditions. “Halloween is my favorite holiday and I look forward to it every year”, Chelsea Navarro (29) from San Diego, California, says. “As a child, Halloween meant picking out a fun custom and spending the evening trick-or-treating with my family. As an adult, I look forward to passing out candy to children, decorating my home and staying up late watching scary movies with my friends. On Halloween, my family enjoys going to a beachside town that is known for its amazing carved pumpkin displays. Many artists showcase their work and we always love looking at the intricate designs people come up with. In California, there are many multiple Haunted Houses. Thousands of people visit one of the largest of them, called “Scream Zone”. Even Disneyland celebrates Halloween with a haunted party with Mickey Mouse.”


Chelsea has lived in Austria for nine months with her husband and dog and currently works as an English teacher. She typically celebrates Halloween all month long, and this year she doesn’t see any reason to break with this custom. “I plan on carving a pumpkin, eating a homemade caramel apple, and watching scary movies with my husband. I definitely miss the USA and some traditions during Halloween time, but I look forward to making new ones while I am in Austria”. 

Text: Vita Vitrenko