The time of Jack O’Lanterns, trick-or-treating, costume creation and devilish decorating is upon us. All Hallows Day’ is about all celebrating the dead, but the holiday has certainly evolved since it was first observed over 2,000 years ago. We’ll be taking you through a brief Halloween background, a selection of fun to make costume ideas, party games, spooky movies, a bunch of fascinating facts, and you’ll learn where around the world Halloween is celebrated.
Halloween is globally celebrated on the 31st of October, which falls on a Saturday in 2020. If one is looking at the traditional pagan sabbath, then you must keep in mind that Halloween marks the close of summer and the end of the harvest, which, in America and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, is on or around the 31st of October. In the Southern Hemisphere, the holiday falls on the 30th of April.
All Hallow’s Eve has transformed immensely since its early Pagan origins. Today, we celebrate Halloween as a day to remember the dead and faithful departed. This includes our ancestors, the saints (who are otherwise known as hallows), and all of the martyrs killed for their testimony.
The real meaning of Halloween across all cultures has always been to remember and honor the dearly departed. By adopting and adapting ancient customs, Christian missionaries began to spread the gospel more effectively while showing respect to the dead. The church also used the day to inform others about the deeds and testimony of the saints. Pope Gregory IV set the date of All Saints Day to the 1st of November, placing the celebrations on its eve. The bible and church slowly started gaining cultural influence over the Celtic people who were firm in their beliefs and traditions.
Humanity has celebrated Halloween since it was first a Gaelic festival called Samhain. Arriving at the very end of the harvest season, the ancient Celts celebrated the 31st of October as Oíche Shamhna, which fell halfway between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. Celtic pagans believed the threshold between the world of the living and dead was weakest at this period when livestock was killed as food for the winter. The period when shepherds took stock.
Gods and nature spirits were thought to pass through into this realm. Some spirits were believed to damage the crops and land, while others needed to be appeased so that divination rituals would work and tell the future accurately and in a detailed fashion. The day was celebrated with bonfires, feasts, and tributes to the ancestors. Celtic pagans viewed Samhain as the beginning of their New Year. They dressed up in costumes adorning animal hides while hollowing out gourds that later became the Jack O’Lanterns of today.
Samhain was adapted into the holiday that we know in present times over an extensive period. The Roman Empire was ruling almost all Celtic land by 43 A.D. and incorporated their holiday honoring the dead, Feralia, into the festivities. They also used Halloween as a day to celebrate their goddess of fruit, Pomona. This is where the association with apples comes from. The meaning that we inherit today arose as a convergence of cultures.
Christianity reached the Celts around the 9th century, and by 1000 A.D., All Souls’ Day was created to pay homage to those who have passed. Celebrations were kept similar, integrating into the Celtic culture, and held the day before. The day of celebration was called All-hallowmas, and the 1st of November was named All-Hallows Eve. In time, the modern name of Halloween came to be.
We all know witches and black cats but where do these symbols come from? How did they end up becoming synonymous with Halloween? Let’s take a closer look at a few iconic symbols of the holiday.
The ancient Celtic pagan festival of Samhain is a day filled with symbolism. Most of the traditions associated with this liminal day were performed to either communicate with the spirit world or to divine the future. After all, Druidic customs in pagan Europe were where the day stemmed from. Individuals accused of practicing magic during the middle ages were called witches. As a result, witchcraft became synonymous with Halloween as witches were instantly connected to magic.
Superstitious people during the middle ages had a dark misunderstanding of cats. They believed that witches had familiars that would manifest as pets. Cats were rumored to be a favored choice for witches, with specific twisted individuals even fearing that spellcasters could disguise themselves as their cats—the connection between witchcraft and cats as a familiar made sure that it crossed across to Halloween.
Carving pumpkins into Jack O’Lanterns began with carving turnips. Before the tradition moved to America, the Irish would carve lanterns out of turnips which were widespread locally, but once Halloween reached the U.S.A., the conventional Jack O’Lantern evolved as pumpkins were more readily available.
Halloween is the celebration of the harvest, which is why you commonly find corn, wheat, and corn husks appearing as symbols of agriculture. Corn dollies were also created by mystical Celts from corn husks serving as a voodoo doll according to popular lore.
Spiderwebs arrive as an association to the spooky in a number of ways. We’ve all envisioned a scary space crawling with spiders. Taking the imagery a step further, any place covered in cobwebs has likely been left empty for long a while. This most likely means that it’s got a lot of history and is far more likely to be haunted on the night when the dead can cross over.
Here’s a look at the strange origins of some of our favorite Halloween traditions.
Pagan Celtic people wore costumes, including the skins and heads of animals, to disguise themselves as they left their homes to attend the seasonable group celebrations. While in costume, they believed that they’d be safe from the tricks of malevolent spirits. It was only in the 1900s, when Halloween had reached America, that two New York businessmen started selling themed costumes for the holiday. It exploded in popularity and became the tradition we know today.
Apple bobbing originated as a divination game in ancient Ireland. When Rome invaded Britain and festivals intertwined, the Goddess Pomono’s symbol, the apple, rose to prominence. Unmarried women would believe that the first to bite on an apple strung from a line would be the first to marry. There were numerous variations of the game, including a belief that the girl would dream of her husband to be if she put the piece of apple beneath her pillow.
Trick or treating started as far back as ancient times with the Greek historian Athenaeus writing that children would go from house to house while dressed as Swallows on the island of Rhodes. They’d sing a song which was asking the homeowner for food. It threatened with tricks if they refused. In the middle ages, many of the Celts believed that they could take offerings on behalf of the dead or deities that they were dressed as. Christianity brought the sharing of soul cakes, receiving gifts for the dead. In the United States, trick or treating became immensely popular during the 1940s.
American Puritan colonists brought the celebration of Halloween from Ireland to America. As more and more Irish immigrants reached the New World in the mid-1800s, Celtic traditions became more common. The other nationalities quickly adopted the fun customs, eventually coming to pull pranks on Halloween.
Here’s a selection of great Halloween costume ideas, segmented into costumes for toddlers, kids, adults, and families too.
Toddlers are at the perfect age for engaging costumes that identify with fun things they can relate to. These years are great for simple yet zany outfits. Let’s take a closer look at a few ideas.
The hit movies Trolls and Trolls World Tour have some of the funniest, funkiest characters around. Dressing your little one up, such as one of their favorite multicolored animated friends, is guaranteed to get their costume noticed, while those who prefer to be different can dress up like a Bergan instead.
Did you know that there are fourteen different dragons spread across seven different classes in the hit movie? Each makes for a stand-out costume with enough different types to guarantee every kid a look they’re crazy about.
Woodie and Jessie are both instantly recognizable wild west favorites for kids but keep in mind the rest of the Toy Story cast too.
What could be more fun for a little one than dressing up like a giant version of their favorite fruit, vegetable, or food?
Animals are always excellent no matter what age you may be, so pick one that your child will have fun imitating and prepare for horsey, doggy, lion, or even some fishy fun.
No matter how to portray an angel or devil as a kid, the little one is always as cute as can be. Experiment with angel/devil styles from cartoons, movies, scary stories, and more until your child finds one that they like.
Halloween simply wouldn’t be Halloween if there wasn’t a horde of little witches and warlocks running around, each sporting their own magical garb, tools, and trinkets.
For the prim and proper little prince or princess out there, give them exactly what they’re crying out to be by dressing them the part. Splash out – they won’t want to be tiny royalty forever.
This is the day for fairies, goblins, elves, satyrs, and mystical beasts of all types to begin walking the earth. Finding one to dress up as is half the fun. Simply turn to tales of magic and might.
There’s a point where most of us love the idea of putting on a cutting edge suit and shooting off to space. Indulge your child by buying or building them an astronaut suit this All Hallow’s Eve.
Keep costumes for younger kids bright, simple, and straightforward. Refrain from frills that’ll get damaged or could be in the way of them having fun and feeling free in their outfit. Here are some great costume ideas for kids.
Let your kid pick out an emoji, and you’ve got a fun, instantly recognizable Halloween costume that opens up a world of variety.
There are tons of different types of skeletons, and lots of ways to turn a bare, easy-to-make look into something extra-spooky and uniquely special.
Playing out a zombie is almost as fun as eating brains must be for a zombie. This is also one of those costumes for kids that can be infinitely customized.
Being bound in bandages is a ton of fun no matter what age you’re at, taking little or a lot, depending on your look, to transform your little one into a mummy.
Superman, Wonderman, Batman, Catwoman, Spider-Man, Harley Quinn, The Hulk, Storm, Iron Man, Rogue, Wolverine, Black Widow, Green Lantern, Supergirl, Thor, The Invisible Woman, The Flash, Mystique, Doctor Strange, Gamora, or just about any other timeless superhero you can think of.
Having your little one pick out their favorite transformer and piecing together, the perfect costume offers loads of creative fun for those who opt to think outside the box.
Look towards your child’s favorite cartoon character for inspiration for their next Halloween costume. From time-old favorites like Winney The Pooh and Tigger to any of the Rugrats, Vampirana, or the Spongebob cast, there’s a lot to pick from.
Ghost costumes for kids range from as simple as a sheet over your head to elaborate visions of otherworldly fright that include gadgets and layers of detail to make the freakiness even more realistic.
Every video game franchise has a range of great costume ideas. Consider classic options like Super Mario, any of the Mortal Kombat characters, or something fun like Spiro the dragon. Alternatively, you’ve also got more contemporary looks to try out. Explore Minecraft themes, World of Warcraft or Guild Wars characters or bosses, or even a hero from League of Legends. It all depends on their favorite game.
Get out the toy guns, put on a bandana, don that cowboy hat, shine those boots, and find a pair of spurs. Dressing up like a cowboy or cowgirl is always fun.
Make sure that the whole family gets in on the fun by dressing up. It puts you in the perfect frame of mind for the hallowed day and guarantees all the trick or treaters and immersive fun Halloween by being greeted by a host of otherworldly creatures, superheroes, animals, and more.
Alien costumes can range from simple but stop your heart scary to truly out of this world horrific. They’re best left for mom and dad.
Just like vampires, werewolves work a bit better when you’re older, letting the scary be brought out to the extreme.
Child celebs work for the kids, but few Halloween outfits for adults draw as much attention as a well-pulled off celebrity imitation. From pop stars to talk show hosts, sports stars to icons of the silver screen, there are a lot of celebs to select from.
Vampires are popular at all ages but rather leave the darker look for parents or older teens.
There is a good reason that so many people are gravely afraid of clowns, if only once a year, and it’s our responsibility to keep it that way. Only mom or dad could be that scary… but then again, a pint-sized It could be atrocious and perfect for the holiday.
Prepare to gather loot without needing to plunder, unless your crew is turned away. A pirate’s tricks are always the most fun when in full character.
Toss aside the veil of normality a night and transform yourself into a fortune teller extraordinaire, taking the role of a gypsy in full, elaborate ancient dress boasting flowing silks, lavish gemstones, and mystical adornments aplenty.
Steampunk gives you tons of different looks to work with, and almost all of them use some form of a mask. If you’re going to be making your costume at home, then you’d better start early – steampunk takes a lot of detail. Consider making or buying a plague doctor mask to complete your look.
There can never be too many Grim Reapers on Halloween. What could be more fitting than escorting your kids around as a pair of reapers, or answering the door with nothing but a bowl of candy and a stare?
There is perhaps no couple more fitting of Halloween night than a corpse bride and groom enjoying the festivities together with their horde of demonic or animation-inspired offspring.
Keep the family spirit strong on the day of the dead by making sure that you’re all dressed as part of a recognizable family or group. Here are a few family Halloween costume suggestions.
The Smiths are made up of Grandpa Rick, Jerry & Beth, and their son and daughter Morty and Summer. There are also some zanier characters to dress up as if you’ve got a larger family like Reverse Giraffe, Squanchy, and King Flippy Nips.
Philip, Bender, Leela, Amy, Zoidberg, Hermes, Zapp, Kif, Professor Farnsworth, Scruffy, Nibbler, Mom, and Morbo all make for funky costumes that go great when worn together as a family.
Gomez and Morticia Addams, accompanied by Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Lurch, Cousin It, the Thing, and Pugsley’s octopus Aristotle is the quintessential Halloween family.
The Smiths are made up of Stan and Francine, their son Steve, daughter Hayley, the family fish Klaus, and Roger, the Alien. It’s a family look that everyone will instantly recognize with lots of other characters open for extended family members to join the fun if they want.
Get dressed up like Fred and Wilma Flintstone, their baby daughter Pebbles, Dino, Baby Puss, or any of the Rubbles you’re in for a Yabba Dabba Doo good time!
Minions are always found in packs, and that’s precisely why you, your kids, and all of their friends should dress up like Bob, Stuart, Kevin, and the rest of the zany bunch to go trick or treating together.
To date, the Avengers movies have featured no less than thirty-one intriguing characters. That’s a lot of great costumes.
Go Yellow for All Hallow’s Eve and have your family dress up like Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, or Maggie. There are tons of toons to pick from in The Simpsons universe so feel free to let your kids pick out their favorites but all keep to the same look.
The original justice league is made up of seven members. Let your family sort out who’s playing who from the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Superman, Batwoman, and Martian Manhunter.
Get dressed up as a bunch of barnyard animals. Have mom and dad play a big animal like a cow or horse while the kids act out sheep, chickens, goats, ponies, pigs, rabbits, and all their other favorite animals.
Here’s a selection of games that you can make at home for Halloween using easy to obtain items. With a little creativity and some preparation, you’ll have the best scary celebration ever.
No Halloween party is complete without bobbing for apples. Put a spin on this classic to keep things hygienic. Simply fill a bucket or container for each child or contestant and throw in a couple of apples. Put the same number in each and then have an apple bobbing race. The first to remove all their apples wins.
Whether you’re buying the picture, printing it, or painting it, setting up a scary version of pin the tail on the donkey is fun and easy. Make sure to get your picture nice and big so that pinning the tail on the demon, placing a spider on the web, or placing a nose on the witch is challenging.
Hide a range of items across your home and yard to prepare a scavenger hunt. Make sure that you set a theme to as much of your space as possible. Tracking down the spooky scavenger hunt items should be a challenging, scary task that takes you little ones through false cobwebs, ghostly encounters, and more.
Divide players into pairs and divide out a few rolls of toilet paper. Get a stopwatch ready, and see who can transform their partner into a mummy using up all their toilet paper in the quickest time possible.
Start off by making yourself a set of bowling pins. Plastic soda bottles filled with a small amount of water work well. Wrap each in toilet paper and then paint on a face to create your mummy bowling pins. All you need then is a large, heavy ball or a small pumpkin with its stem taken off, and a lane set out to get your game started.
Making a ghost pinata out of crepe paper is easy. Either buy a crepe paper lantern and add a face to form a ghost or wrap your candy in layers of crepe paper to encapsulate it. Once sealed inside, shape a ghost using additional layers of paper. Hang somewhere accessible and let your kids take turns smashing open their very own Halloween pinata.
Make many spiders using pipe cleaners and wool or buy a few lightweight novelty toy spiders at a store. Set out an area and divide it into lanes with a start and finish point for racing. Give each participant a thick straw and let the races begin. Each contestant must try to blow their spider from the beginning to the finish using the straw. No touching allowed!
A pumpkin carving competition works best when you use the smallest pumpkins you can find. Ready a whole bunch of pumpkins beforehand and come up with a range of different carving competitions. Terrific contests include themed carving contests, timed carving, and the scariest Jack O’Lantern overall. Just make sure that you get all the kids playing to join in the judging as well.
Create an obstacle course by stretching long lengths of toilet paper across a fairly narrow passage. Intertwine the strands of toilet paper to create a web that players will need to navigate without breaking. The first one to make it through the obstacle course wins. Alternatively, run a time trial and see who can finish the fastest.
Set up a Halloween charades game by printing or drawing out a selection of cards beforehand. Keep all your themes suited to the day, including ideas like black cats, witches, voodoo dolls, zombies, ghosts, spiders, bones, webs, spells, and magic.
There’s no better way to put yourself in the mood for the festivities than to watch a few scary movies. We’ve put together a selection of the best Halloween movies for kids, teens, adults, and the whole family.
Let Jack Skellington and Tim Burton’s stop motion dark fantasy masterpiece put you and your family in the mood for spooky festivities.
You’ll get to meet not only Count Dracula but Frankenstein, werewolves, an invisible man, and Murray, the mummy, among many other unforgettable characters.
The teenage horror classic Goosebumps is just scary enough to put kids in the right frame of mind for fright.
Toy Story’s Halloween special lets you watch the toys as they road trip to a motel. Things quickly get scary as a dark conspiracy unfolds.
Norman can speak to ghosts, and your kids will be hooked on finding out how he ends the curse on his town.
The animated remake of The Addams Family breathes all-new life into our favorite kooky, spooky family.
Tim Burton knows how to do Halloween, and this stop-motion classic is another must-see that’s great for people of all ages.
There’s something surreal about stop motion fantasy movies, and Caroline oozes atmosphere as you’re taken on a journey into a parallel dimension hidden beyond a secret door.
Victor Frankenstein brings his dog back to life in this black-and-white stop-motion must-see.
Based on the book, Happy Family, this animated horror follows Count Dracula around as he comes to find a family.
The Disney tale of three present-day Salem witches is a classic starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker that you’ll be watching over and over again.
Watch as Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman cook up their perfect man in a romantic comedy plot that goes devilishly wrong.
A deceased family begins to haunt the house that they lived in with a little help from a poltergeist named Betelgeuse.
You don’t get a better dark romance for Halloween night than Edward Scissorhands, yet another must-see from Tim Burton, the master of Halloween.
This is the musical slasher than everyone will fall in love with. It’s a sublime but horrific story told in song.
The original Addams Family is a great movie to watch with everyone there. Give it a watch today’. You may just end up finding a costume theme for the whole family as well.
Lewis, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmerman will give you a craving for magic, wishing it were as real as in the tale of the dead accidentally coming to life. It’s fantastic for adults and kids alike.
Between Eddy Murphy’s expressions and the over-the-top effects that bring the dead to life, The Haunted Mansion is a movie that’s guaranteed to keep everyone captivated from start to end.
If your kids haven’t already seen the movie that made an era call out to own their own mogwai, then it’s time to watch Gremlins together. We recommend watching Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch at least once every Halloween.
Now, this one may be a bit freaky for younger viewers, so save it for Halloween night itself when the whole family is gathered and prepared for a night of fear and fright.
These horrors are best viewed by adults or supervised by their parents. There are one or two horrors listed that may be suitable for younger people but it’s best to keep kids away from the shock and scarier scene until they’re more mature.
What is the big day without watching Halloween itself? There are eleven films in the franchise, so we recommend starting a marathon or watching them in sequence in preparation for the 31st of October.
While not a movie but a mini-series, the original It will let your kids understand why so many people our age are afraid of clowns.
This cult classic film is filled with strong characters and has stood as one of the most iconic horrors ever made, spawning the recently released T.V. series Ratched.
Resurrection is never to be taken lightly, as this strange lingering horror will soon show.
The remake of the 1979 classic tells the tale of the haunted Lutz family, and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you’re not them. What a horror.
Halloween is the second biggest commercial holiday in America, but it is also celebrated in many other world regions.
As the holiday’s birthplace, Ireland holds annual celebrations with most North American traditions being carried out. The Irish also have bonfires, fireworks, and barmbrack cake.
The Day of the Dead is one of the biggest celebrations in Mexico. Día de Muertos is a three-day event with altars being erected to honor the dead and elaborate make-up and costumes being worn to take on the likeness of the departed & ethereal spirits.
Italy’s country doesn’t celebrate Halloween like the U.S. and other areas, but it’s the coastal island of Sardinia has a few traditions. Children don’t trick or treat but instead ask for treats on behalf of souls who are believed to be in purgatory. Instead of Jack O’Lanterns, the local inhabitants have Cancas de Mortu, representing the heads of dead people.
In Portugal, there is a tradition where kids ask for bread for God on the 1st of November. There are no costumes, but bread, candy, and various small gifts are given as the little ones perform Pão-por-Deus.
Trick or treating has been picking up in the Dominican Republic, particularly in the areas frequented by tourists such as Sosua and Punta Cana.
Halloween isn’t avidly celebrated in China, other than in areas frequented by expats. However, a locally celebrated event called the Hungry Ghost Festival takes place halfway through July that carries a similar meaning, honoring the dead.
In the Philippines, the dead are honored and remembered between the 31st of October and the 2nd of November. This cultural celebration traditionally had Pangangaluluwâ, or souling, take place. Instead of trick or treating, people visit houses with songs hoping to receive food or money as a gift in exchange.
The small volcanic island of Saint Helena loves Halloween, celebrating the holiday each year with all of the traditional symbols, images, and games found in the U.S.
Halloween is huge and filled with fascinating details ranging from ancient times until today. Just take a look at these shockingly amazing facts about everyone’s favorite haunted holiday:
No matter what type of Halloween background you’re used to or have grown up with, never be afraid to innovate, expand, and diversify the way you celebrate. There are always new ways to reinvent classic traditions. Exciting foods to try, games to play, and scary adventures to have with your friends and family. Do you know someone who needs a new costume or a few ideas for sprucing up their holiday home? We encourage you to share this piece to spread the spine-chilling fun and a little inspiration.
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