Looking for Regional Information?

Halloween Family Fun

By Charles Hopkins Published 10/23/2007 | Kids & Teens
The traditional Halloween celebrations come round every October 31st, and these days those who enjoy the festivities the most are the children. Halloween is a time to dress up in fancy dress and take to the streets trick or treating. Some families go to a lot of trouble decorating their homes and front yards in a ghostly and eerie Halloween theme.

Halloween is a traditional Celtic festival, and has survived through the ages most strongly in the Celtic communities in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. From there, with emigration, Halloween has spread around the world, most notably to America. In recent years, the spread of popular American culture has introduced a further expansion of interest in Halloween to fresh places, such as Asia and Western Europe.

The original Celtic celebrations were pagan festivities related to the changing seasons as winter approached. Traditionally it was a time when the living could communicate with the dead, and magic was abroad. The early Christian church, as with many pagan festivals, absorbed these celebrations into the Christian calendar. All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows Day, was set down for November 1st. All Hallows Evening, the night of October 31st, became known as Hallow E'en, later just Halloween, and the time for the traditional celebrations.

Halloween celebrations were a community event, and there was usually a bonfire and fun games. The apple harvest was in full swing, and games such as trying to eat an apple on a string or floating in a barrel of water without using your hands, were popular. Children would go from door to door to gather fruit, nuts and other goodies for the festivities, which was the origin of the "treating" visits of today. In most places, especially in Scotland, the children would sing or put on a performance in return for the treats they collected. Today the treats collected are more likely to be candies and sweets, and sometimes money.

Halloween "tricks" were originally secret and often witty pranks played on some adults by children, with the blame being placed on the mischievous spirits that were said to be abroad on Halloween. This practice was especially popular in Ireland. At some stage long in the past, tricks and treating merged into a choice: give a treat or become the victim of a trick. This unfortunate development led to such practices as throwing eggs at houses and soaping windows, and worse. Today these excesses are rare.

Halloween parties are often held with a haunted house theme decoration. To the delight of children, Halloween menu items often include tomato soup renamed as vampire soup, spaghetti dishes renamed with cemetery humor as worms, and the ever-popular breadsticks tipped with sliced almonds and known as witches fingers. With so many pumpkins being made into carved jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin dishes such as pumpkin pie are often a feature of Halloween menus.

Over the last few years, the magical themes of the popular Harry Potter books have added fresh fun to costumes and decorations for children's Halloween parties.

Halloween costume parties have also become popular events for adults as well in recent years. They are a great excuse to dress up and have fun. It seems the trend today is for any costume to be acceptable, not necessarily just the traditional witches, vampires and ghosts of Halloween. Costume design inspirations are now drawn from many sources, such as recent movies and television series. Some costumes are just witty, such as the seasonally appropriate theme of a leaf blower, consisting just of a leaf suspended from the brim of a cap where it can be blown.