The origin of Halloween

In the autumn nights get longer. The weather turns colder. Leaves fall from trees, and plants die. For these reasons, autumn is considered to be a time of death.

Long ago many people believed that on certain autumn nights dead spirits came back to earth. This idea was held by the Celts, a European people who lived in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France. Over 2000 years ago the Celts held a festival that was probably the start of our Halloween.

The Celts' festival was held on October 31. It was called Samhain after the Celts’ lord of the dead. Samhain was thought to send ghosts to earth on the night of October 31. When angry Samhain could send many evil ghosts. The Celts built fires on hilltops to scare off the ghosts. They also scared the ghosts away by wearing costumes made of animal heads and skins.


Let's celebrate Halloween!


Traces of the Samhain festival remain in our Halloween customs. Ghosts still roam about on October 31. Only today they are children under sheets. People still wear costumes on Halloween. Only now they are cloth and plastic instead of animal heads and skins.

Fortune-telling is still done, but just for fun. Even Halloween’s colours – orange and black – may have come from the Samhain festival. It was a time when orange flames lit up the black night.


Samhain [´sɑːwin] – Самайн                           to scare off — отпугивать

death — смерть                                            skin — кожа

to believe — верить                                      trace — след

certain — определённый                              sheet — простыня

spirit — дух                                                   plastic — пластмасса

the Celts — кельты                                        instead of — вместо

lord/god — бог                                             flame  - пламя

evil — зло                                                      to remain — оставаться

hilltop — вершина холма                              to roam about — бродить, скитаться

The   Romans   Add   to   the   Tradition

богиня фруктовых деревьев Помона

The goddess of friut trees

The Romans were a mighty people of ancient times. At first they lived in Rome, in what is now Italy. Later they conquered many other lands. Near the time of Christ’s birth, the Romans conquered the Celts. They changed the way of life for people in England, France, and other Celtic lands.

Each fall the Romans honored the dead with a festival. It was called the Feralia. It came in late October, about the time of Samhain. Little is known about the Feralia. Near that time of the year the Romans also had a harvest festival. It honored Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. Pomona was sometimes shown wearing a crown of apples. She was nicknamed the Apple Queen.

To thank Pomona for fruit, the Romans set out apples and nuts for her. They also ate apples and nuts. And they ran races and played games. These Roman customs blended with the Celts’ Samhain customs. And apples and nuts became early Halloween food.

Today apples and nuts are served at many Halloween parties. “Bobbing for apples” is also popular at Halloween parties. A number of apples are placed in a tub of water. Using only their teeth, the contestants try to grab the apples. The one who sinks his or her teeth into an apple first wins a prize.

All Hallows’ Eve = Halloween

About 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ was born. It founded a new religion. It was named Christianity after Jesus Christ.

After Christ’s death, Christianity spread through Europe. By 600 AD (600 years after Christ’s birth) many Celts had become Christians.  Christian priests disliked the old Celtic holidays. They wanted the Celts to honour Christian holidays instead. But the Celts would not give up their old holidays.

The Christian priests found a way to solve this problem. They made Christian holidays on the same days as old Celtic holidays. They wanted the Christian holidays to replace the Celtic ones. In 609 or 610 AD the Christians created a new holiday. It was called All Hallows’ Day (today All Saints’ Day). It honoured holly people called saints many of whom had died for their religion.

At first All Hallows’ Day was held in May. But in the 800s AD it was moved to November 1. Christian leaders wanted All Saints’ Day to replace Samhain.

The night before All Hallows’ Day was called All Hallows’ Eve. After a while people left off “All” and called it “Hallow Eve”. But they said “Hallow Eve” so fast that it became “Halloween”.


Jesus Christ [´dʒiːzəs ´kraist] – Иисус Христос

Christianity [ˏkristi´æniti] – Христианство

AD (Anno Domini) – нашей эры

Middle Ages – средние века

to spread (spread, spread) – распространять

to honour [´ɒnə] – оказывать честь, чтить

priest [priːst] – священник

to give up – отказываться

All Hallows’ Eve – День Всех Святых

Why do people say “God bless you” to sneezers?

Roman ideas had already changed the October 31 festival. Christian ideas changed it much more. Samhain, the lord of the dead, lost importance. The devil replaced him in people’s mind. Also called Satan, the devil is the evil ruler of the Christians’ hell.

Europe’s Middle Ages lasted from the 400s AD to the 1500s AD. During the Middle Ages, many Europeans thought that the devil came up to earth on Halloween. The devil was also thought to send evil spirits up from hell on that night. People had to be careful on the night of October 31. Otherwise spirits might harm them. The devil might even take their souls.

People thought there were magic ways to keep the devil and his spirits away. People in Scotland thought that the rowan tree (or European mountain ash) drove off evil spirits. They wore twigs of this tree for protection on Halloween. They also made cakes for Halloween spirits. They hoped the spirits would be grateful for these treats and leave people alone.

In Wales and some other places people were afraid to sneeze on Halloween. They thought a sneeze shot the soul out of the body for a second. The devil could take the soul to hell in that time. Quickly saying “God bless you” protected the loose soul from the devil. That may be why people say “God bless you” to sneezers today.


devil [´devl] – дьявол, черт

evil [´iːvəl]– зло

hell – ад

spirit – дух

to harm – причинять вред

soul – душа

rowan [´rəuən] tree = mountain ash – рябина

twig – веточка, прут

to sneeze – чихать

treat – угощение

to be grateful – быть благодарным

“God bless you” — Храни Вас Бог (Будьте здоровы!)

храни вас Бог

God bless you!


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