All About Halloween

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Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland look at Halloween, a popular holiday in North America. People celebrate similar holidays in many other countries as well.

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Do you like hearing scary stories? See our program Telling Scary Stories.

Voice 1  

Every October 31st children all across the United States do something strange. They imagine they are someone or something else. They put on strange clothes. They may even paint their faces or wear false hair. They walk around from house to house. They knock on the door of the house. When someone opens the door all the children say the same thing:

Trick or treat!

a child dressed as batman
Image by April Bryant from Pixabay
Voice 2  

The person in the house gives them a sweet candy treat! The children do this again and again for one house to the next. This is the holiday of Halloween. Today’s Spotlight is on Halloween – and other holidays like it.

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The tradition of Halloween is very old. In fact, people who study history believe that Halloween traditions began as long as 2,500 years ago. They believe these traditions started in ancient Ireland, with the Celtic people.

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The Celts of Ireland counted two parts of the year. The bright half of the year was summer. And the dark half was winter. They believed that the bright half of the year ended around October 31. After this day, winter was coming. The Celtic people called this change in season Samhain, which means the ‘end of summer.’

Voice 1  

Samhain was a special time. It was both a celebration of the end of summer, or life, and the beginning of winter, or death. So it was also a frightening time. The Celts believed that there was a natural barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead. But, at Samhain, the barrier disappeared. They believed that spirits could rise from the dead and come among the living.

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Historians say that during the celebration of Samhain the Celts dressed themselves in different clothes. They walked through their villages making lots of noise. And they caused disorder in the village. They believed that this frightened the spirits away. Some historians also believe that the Celts sacrificed humans or animals during this celebration as a warning to the spirits.

Voice 1  

Other people groups in other parts of the world also celebrated similar holidays. Around the year 400, Christians came to Ireland. They began to celebrate Christian holidays at the same time the Celts celebrated their holidays.

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For many years the Christians had a celebration in honour of saints – special people in the Church. They called this celebration ‘All Saints Day,’ or ‘All Hallows Day.’ It was a day to celebrate these special saints, or ‘holy,’ people. They celebrated ‘All Hallows Day’ on November 1st.

Voice 1

The night before a special day is called an “eve”. After a time, people began calling the Samhain celebration ‘All Hallows Eve.’ Since language is always changing, people soon shortened the name. Instead of ‘All Hallows Eve’, they called it ‘Halloween’, and that is what we call it today!

Voice 2  

In the 16th century, another tradition began. In the days leading up to the Samhain celebration, the people of Ireland and Britain dressed in different clothes. They went house to house. At each house, they sang songs to the dead. Then the people of the house gave them small sweet cakes.

vintage halloween kids
Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay
Voice 1  

Irish settlers brought Halloween traditions to the United States in the middle 1800’s. But people there did not really celebrate Halloween until almost 100 years later – during the early 1900’s. For most children today in the US, Canada, the UK and other places, Halloween is about candy and fun clothes. But other people have a day like this to celebrate the people who have lived and died before us.

Voice 2  

Many countries have a celebration to remember people who have died. Some celebrations are at different times of the year. They do not always call these celebrations ‘Halloween’. But the celebrations have similar meanings. So, how do you celebrate Halloween?

Voice 1  

On Halloween in Belgium, there are parades and scary decorations like spiders and ghosts. But people also light candles. These candles help people remember their dead relatives.

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In the Czech Republic they celebrate Dusicky. People visit the place where a family member is buried.

Voice 1  

In China, people do not celebrate Halloween. But they have a very similar celebration called ‘Yue Lan’. It is the ‘Festival of the Hungry Ghosts.’ The people there believe that spirits visit the world for 24 hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money. They believe that the spirits can see these burned pictures. And the burned pictures bring calm and peace to the ghosts. This celebration is not a time for games or dressing up. Instead, it is a day to remember and respect the memory of dead ancestors.

day of the dead in Mexico
Image by Darvin Santos from Pixabay
Voice 2  

In Mexico, the people celebrate ‘Dia De Muertos’ – ‘the day of the dead.’ Some other Latin American countries also celebrate this holiday. It is not a scary day. It is a time to remember friends and family members who have died. A three-day celebration begins on October 31. During this time, families make special places in their homes to honour their dead friends and family. They place candy, photographs, fresh water, flowers, and food and drink in this special place. They burn candles and strong smelling incense to help spirits find their way home. The last day of the celebration is called ‘All Soul’s Day’. On this day, living family members eat a meal at the gravesite where dead friends and family are buried. They tell stories and remember good times of when the person was alive.

Voice 1  

And the tradition of Halloween is still popular in Ireland too! Today, on Halloween, Irish boys and girls dress like ghosts, witches, or other frightening creatures. They light big fires. Many children go around to different houses. They ask for fruits, nuts, or sweets.

Voice 2  

Halloween can be a lot of fun for children. But is also a good time to remember someone you love who has died. Do you celebrate Halloween? Do you have a tradition that helps you remember people who have died? Tell us about your experiences. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

Voice 1  

The writers of this program were Liz Waid and Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘All About Halloween’.

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Do you celebrate Halloween? Do you celebrate any holiday to remember loved ones who have died?

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  • Hi Spotlight!
    I come from Vietnam,in my country has celebrated tradition same China and we called it ” giỗ”day. On the this day, we place fruit,rice,soup,flowers………on the tables and we prayed for person died before rise and come eat thems. And “giỗ’ day its celebrate depend on the day person out of the breath

  • In my country – Vietnam, people also do not celebrate Halloween festival, but we have a celebration similar to China’s Yue Lan, which is Vu Lan – Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. This is the day when the children show their gratitude to their parents, some people will be vegetarian and go to the pagoda, there is a ritual on this day where the children will put a rose on their chest (white for people whose parents have passed away and red roses for those who still have parents). Depending on the region, every family will make different dishes to worship their ancestors

  • In Egypt and most Middle Eastern countries, we do not celebrate Halloween or any holiday to remember people who have died. Still, we celebrate other holidays like “Eid-el-fetr,” “Eid-el-Adha,” and the holy month of ‘Ramadan.’ and when we remember our dead people (as a Muslim), we pray for them. Thanks, spotlight, for these interesting broadcasts, and much love -salam.

  • If I celebrated it when I was little, I was going to ask for sweets.
    I only dressed twice as a ghost and once as a witch.
    the day of the dead always reminds me of my relatives because we
    go to the pantheon

  • Halloween is not an official holiday in Vietnam. But in this day, people still have small party with friends or family. Beside in the streets, the atmosphere is very lively with interesting activity.

  • In my country, people do not celebrate the halloween day for dead ancestors. But they celebrate at the day of dead of their ancestor. And on the halloween day, people will go outside to play together, a few will make terrible face.

  • No, I don’t celebrate Halloween or anything like that because I’m Muslim. and I think it’s useless to particular day just for this…

  • Actually I don’t celebrate in halloween because it’s forbidden in our Islamic religion but we have to others holy days

  • I am a Muslim but Halloween is great tradition, but we have tradition in Islam to remamber how died love, in Eid Al Adha we visting cemeteries and pray for them and we give him water.

  • Practically in quito ecuador halloween is celebrated on October 31, it is also celebrated ao dead and many children and young people go out to ask for candy, dress in their favorite theme, extravagant costumes, and enjoy, take the purple wash, but besides that is also celebrated the day of the shield but almost no one pays importance to it.

  • We don’t celebrate the traditional Halloween. But it’s organized at school foreign traditional about because the kids love it. we don’t have a special day to remember the dead

  • No I don’t celebrate Halloween because I’m Muslim and I live in Muslim countrie we can’t do that also forbidden in our religion

  • I don’t usually celebrate Halloween because I’m pretty shy. In my hometown, every family makes a small dining table to commemorate the death of their grandparents

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