As we head towards the end of October, you can’t fail to notice all the pumpkins and ghosts that are appearing in the shops. These may be a familiar sight to you, but if you haven’t seen anything like this before, these strange appearances are some of the signs that it’s nearly Halloween.
What is Halloween?
Halloween, also known as All Saints’ Eve, is celebrated in the UK and in several other countries around the world each year on 31 October. While it has its roots in the Christian church and a period of time to remember the dead, in recent years Halloween has become a more commercial and secular festival. Now it’s celebrated widely by all sorts of people, and certainly seems to dominate the shops at this time of year!
Here are some common words and phrases you might hear in connection with Halloween:
Trick or treating: this is a common practice for children on Halloween. Children wear costumes and go from house to house, asking for treats such as sweets with the question “trick or treat?”
Apple bobbing: this is the name of a game commonly played at Halloween parties. Lots of apples are put to float in a tub or basin of water. People must try to take an apple out of the basin using only their teeth.
Pumpkin carving: this is a common Halloween tradition. People buy a pumpkin and remove the seeds and flesh inside. They carve a face in the front of the pumpkin, then put a lit candle inside so that it acts as a kind of lantern. They’re traditionally placed in a window or by the front door to represent frightening evil spirits away.
Dressing up: this is one of the things children love most about Halloween. You may see children in costumes depicting things like witches, wizards, cats, fairies, pumpkins and more.
Another Autumn festival: bonfire night
Once Halloween is over, there are just five days before another popular UK festival, which is particularly British: Guy Fawkes’ Night. Around the 5th November, you’ll see large fires lit in parks and public places, as well as seeing and hearing firework displays. Guy Fawkes’ Night is also known as bonfire night, and is a day in the year where people remember Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in 1605. Because the plot was foiled, King James I was saved and people celebrated by lighting bonfires across London. This led England’s parliament creating an act that designated 5th November as an annual day for the British people to give thanks for the plot’s failure.
If you’re studying in London in late October or early November, it’s likely you’ll have lots of opportunities to get involved in celebrating Halloween or Bonfire night. Be sure to take advantage of these, as it’s a fantastic chance to get to experience some fun aspects of British life and culture.