Thursday, October 31

Hello Halloween!

A whole year has come and almost gone and now it’s Halloween again. It’s time to let ourselves be frightened by ghosts and monsters.

all images courtesy of stock.xchng unless otherwise stated

Halloween is a practice observed especially in English-speaking countries. Through symbols and advertising, the idea spread to other countries in the world. And now there is a wide variety of ways how people celebrate Halloween. Still, many non-English speakers remain unsure about this tradition and don't practice it.

Well, today our topic is Halloween; its history and customs.

A Little Background

The word “Halloween” comes from the Scottish term “All Hallows Even.” This meant “holy evening” at that time.

In Scots language, “even” is contracted into “e’en” or “een.” And so, little by little the expression changed. What happened was something like this:

All Hallows Even

All Hallows Een

Hallows Een


Before there was Halloween, there had been another festival called “Samhain” or “Day of the Dead.” This was a pagan* holiday celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.

*pagan = not believing in God

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter (the dark half). During this time, people believed that the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead was thin, and the souls of dead people could come back to earth.

Halloween Today

Today, many Halloween customs carry the influence of the pagan festival. Some of these modern customs are:

(1) celebrating on the night of October 31st

(2) trick-or-treating

(3) attending costume parties

(4) putting up Halloween decorations

(5) carving jack-o’-lanterns

(6) lighting bonfires

(7) visiting haunted attractions

This is Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

(8) playing tricks or making fun of other people

(9) telling scary stories

(10) watching horror films

Trick or Treat!

According to this custom, kids wear costumes (often scary, sometimes cute or pretty) and then go house to house.

They say the words: “Trick or treat!” and then people give candy or sweets to them. In Australia, people also give lollipops.

But what exactly does “Trick or treat” mean?

Trick or treat is a kind of threat. If you remember our lesson on “Had Better,” the phrase can be extended like this:

Trick or treat!

= You had better give me a treat (candy) or I will play a trick on you!

For a quick review of “had better,” please read:

Of course nowadays, even if the kids don’t get candy, they don’t play tricks. In other words, they don’t make fun of people who don’t give them a treat. “Trick or treat” has become just a greeting on Halloween.

The phrase “trick or treat” can also be a Verb. So you can say:

The kids will go trick-or-treating.


According to old English stories, “Jack o’ lantern” is another name for the strange light called “ignis fatuus” which is attractive to travelers.  

This is a ghost light that appears over swamps, bogs, or marshes. It looks like a faint lamp.

Ignus Fatuus” is also called “Will-o’the-wisp.” “Will” is the name of a man and short for “William.”







Many people believe that the old custom of carving jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween started in Ireland. Carved turnips were used to show the scary faces of spirits or goblins. 

Today, pumpkin jack-o'-lanterns are very common. 

Scary Stories

Telling scary stories to one another is a very big part of the Halloween celebration. 

If you’d like to get some ideas for scary stories that you can tell your friends, why don’t you read the stories that I posted here on “Cool Elf” over the past years?

Rika-chan (2012) 

Horror Movies

Watching horror movies with your friends (definitely not alone!) is another part of Halloween. So, here’s a list of the most recent scary films in Hollywood. I recommend that you watch them if you still haven’t.

(1) Insidious (2011)

Copyright FilmDistrict

(2) Sinister (2012)

Copyright Summit Entertainment

(3) Conjuring (2013)

Copyright Warner Brothers

Happy Halloween, Everybody!!!

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