top of page

The Origin of Traditions – Halloween

You probably already know that many of the most important traditions look a lot different when you see them in other countries.

Some of the biggest festivals in Spain don’t translate to the same excitement, and it’s true of British festivals celebrated in Spain. In our previous article about some important celebration days in the UK, we talked about how important Halloween is to Brits and Americans.

Today we will dig into (explore) some of the weird and wonderful facts and myths about Halloween, and where this spooky day really comes from.

For more about British culture, or to learn more about how we teach English, get in touch at, or get in contact here.


The real beginning of this type of festival/celebration is very hard to pin down (identify), as many different cultures have a version of it. It’s not surprising, as this is essentially a festival connected with spirits, beings and creatures that form our dreams and nightmares.

Almost every culture in history has tried to make the spirits happy or satisfied, and many of our seasonal and festive days are based on these older Pagan traditions.

In the Gaelic calendar in the 10th Century, the 31st October turning to the 1st November meant the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of winter. This time, known as Samain, was a time of change and flex, so it’s the perfect night to imagine that the spirits and fairies might be able to enter our world!

These fairies were not images of fear, but symbols of fertility and livestock and crop health. Tribes in Scotland, Ireland and Wales all celebrated some similar version of this festival.

The word ‘Halloween’ comes from the 18th Century Scots expression for ‘saints evening’, the night before Saints Day or All Hallows Day. In Scots, Eve means evening, so All Hallows Evening soon became Halloween as the word developed in the culture over time.

Trick or treating

One of the strongest parts of the US and UK traditional Halloween is children 'trick or treating'. Getting dressed up in fun, crazy and scary costumes, and going to your neighbours' houses and knocking on their door. When they answer, they say “trick or treat”, and the happy kids ask for a trick, or a treat!

This started all the way back in the 16th Century, with villagers in Ireland dressing in costumes to mimic the fairies and spirits (no demons or scary costumes yet though). They would sing or recite poems in return for food, and were thought to bring good luck.

How did it spread to the US?

The largest Halloween celebration in the world takes place in New York (Manhattan), where more than two million spectators watch over 50,000 costumed party-people walking the streets in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.

When huge numbers of Irish and Scottish families landed in the US, keen to explore a new life in the New World, they brought many of their traditions with them. Add in the power of commercial interests in the US, and this simple and holy festival marking the turning of the year, is now a celebration enjoyed by almost 200 million Americans, and more than one billion Chinese citizens too.

If you want to know more about British and US culture, and learn how to communicate and have fun in English, get in touch here, or drop us an email at

17 views0 comments


bottom of page