5 Ways to Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is an annual celebration, with its roots firmly placed in our history and cultural developments, that focuses on both the future and the past. It originates from an ancient Celtic tradition from Ireland and was one of four fire festivals held each year.

The Origins and Evolution of Halloween

During this three day festival, referred to as Samhain, families lit hearth fires which they left to burn out while they gathered in the harvest. Following completion of the harvest communities would celebrate at a communal fire and make predictions for the year ahead. At the end of the festivity’s, each family would carry a spark from the communal fire back to relight their own hearth fires.

It was believed that during this festival the barriers between the physical and spiritual world were removed, allowing spirits to walk the earth, and celebrants would wear costumes to prevent recognition by these spectres. Food and drink would also be placed outside of each household to placate the spirits.

As the Roman Empire conquered Celtic territories they began to incorporate their own festivals into local traditions. Over time Roman festivals marking the passing of the dead and celebrating Pomona, the Goddess of fruit and trees, are thought to have been assimilated into Samhain.

Between with 7 th and 9 th centuries, Christians began to mark November 1 st as All Saints Day; initially All Martyrs Day but later expanded to include saints. All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before the festival, known as All Saints Eve, or All Hallows Eve, later morphed into Halloween.


All Saints Day is still observed in many countries around the world including Germany where it is referred to as Allerheiligen and marked by a public holiday. Many countries also celebrate November 2^nd but as a separate holiday referred to as All Souls Day when prayers are given for the dead.

Halloween, as we know it today and celebrated on 31 st October, developed in America in the 17th century. Celebrations included parties to mark the harvest, the telling of ghost stories and fortune telling.

Over the next few centuries the festival expanded to include mischief making, later contributing to the ‘trick’ aspect of ‘trick or treat’, costumes and parties. Other explanations for the origins of trick or treat include an aspect of the All Saints Day Parade from England where the poor would beg for food and be given pastries called soul cakes.

Many of the traditions expounded in America originated in Europe and were transported across the Atlantic by immigrants including carving pumpkins into demonic faces. The subsequent metamorphosis of Halloween saw less of an emphasis placed on the spiritual and religious aspects of the festival and it became more of a celebration aimed at children and communities.

Halloween in the 21st Century - Five Suggestions for Halloween Celebrations

Today the western world has embraced Halloween as a celebration for both children and adults. We have taken a look at how you may mark the festival with your family and friends.

1. Organised Events

Although we may now celebrate Halloween for different reasons one thing is clear, we celebrate it with a passion! So to kick us off why not look at a Halloween festival or event happening near you? Organised events include floating cinemas screening a variety of children’s and adult Halloween films, a huge variety of all-night dance parties catering for all music tastes, and event packed children’s parties and parades. These events are taking place all around the UK and throughout Europe.

Venetian costume

Some countries really go to town, and even hold festivals over several days, including the Derry Halloween Festival in Northern Ireland, Burg Frankenstein Festival near Darmstadt, The Festival of Magic at Mayen in Germany, and Limoges Halloween Festival in France. This is a great opportunity to really get into the Halloween spirit and celebrate with literally thousands of other people.

2. Trick or Treat?

Next how about something a little closer to home and modern traditions. Most communities undertake a trick or treat night, or nights, where young children are escorted around in costume to collect their treats from willing participants. As the popularity of this has grown communities often have pre-designated routes where some residents decorate their homes and gardens to provide a Halloween experience for their guests.

Why not speak to your local community group, school, council or friends and neighbours to see what is happening near you and get involved. Organised community events provide a safe arena for this Halloween activity and also accommodate the proportion of the community who don’t appreciate the disturbance.

3. Any Excuse for a Party

Parties remain a great way to get together with family and friends. Why not take your favourite aspect of Halloween, whether from modern or historic traditions, and throw a themed party. There is plenty of online inspiration for food and drink to help you celebrate in style as well as inspiration for party activities.

Baked cookies

We particularly like bobbing for apples, which hopefully brings back happy childhood memories and is associated with Halloween, and Mummy Wrap, which involves wrapping yourself in toilet roll until you resemble a mummy, and then trying to move!

4. Camping – A Night Under the Stars

If you fancy something a little less noisy, why not plan a campground or wild camping event and spend the night under the stars. Camping often gives you an opportunity to explore a remote and usually beautiful area of the countryside, and is a great way to get in touch with nature and perhaps the origins of this festival.

Milky way

We have sourced lists of some of the best campgrounds in the UK, Germany and the rest of Europe. We have also provided links to some of the most beautiful places to wild camp in the UK and Europe however, please ensure that you are aware of all legislation relating to wild camping in the country you are visiting.

Many campgrounds supply firepits or permit small bonfires however, campfires should not be lit when wild camping. With appropriate clothing, bedding and accessories autumn is still an acceptable time of year for camping in this part of the world.

5. Movie Night!

There is an absolute plethora of movies about Halloween, from the macabre to the farcical. There are musicals, cartoons, film sequels, themed TV series, you name it, they have made it! This link may give you some ideas and trigger a few memories.

You may even have a favourite television character that could inspire a Halloween themed movie night for you and your family, or friends, should you choose to expand this event to a gathering.

If your tastes extend to the outrageous why not have a Rocky Horror Picture Show night. You can even dress up and throw yourself into the audience participation.

The 1980’s saw an explosion of comedy Horror movies. Why not have an 80’s themed movie night? Or you may prefer your Halloween movies to be a bit more traditional, here you can see a list of some of the scariest movies to watch at Halloween.

For many of us the best scary movies were made in black and white. Here is a link to some of the best Black and White horror movies ever made.

A Final Word

We hope that we have given you some inspiration for celebrating Halloween this year. Despite its significant commercialisation in recent years, this is a festival from our past that should be noted in some way.

If you are planning an event maybe we can help? Why not set up a wishlist that you, and your guests, or fellow organisers, can easily access. That way you can keep a track of what you need to make your celebration a success. Our website is completely free to use and there is no registration required.

For now may we wish you a Happy or, perhaps more appropriately, Horrific Halloween!

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