Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.
On what day of the year are you most likely to meet: a zombie, a wicked witch, Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf and Count Dracula? Let’s also throw in some Ghostbusters, a few Jedi, several Disney princesses and villains along with seven dwarves for good measure.
I’ll give you a hint – it’s tomorrow.
You’ve guessed it! The 31st of October! Halloween! The day many countries worldwide dress up as their favourite – usually horror – characters and participate in a number of different traditions from trick-or-treating to carving pumpkins.
However, Halloween has only recently become an excuse for children’s sugar intake to explode, as they can get their hands on as much candy as they can, and for adults to let loose.
It is believed that Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, during which the Celts believed that ghosts returned to haunt the world. They would build huge bonfires, wear costumes and try to predict their future.
The feast evolved after the Romans conquered most of the Celtic land. Two Roman festivals were merged with the Celtic Samhain, one of which was to commemorate the Roman goddess of fruit and trees Pomona, whose symbol is the apple, which may explain another Halloween tradition of bobbing for apples. Apple ducking, as it is called in some places, is played by filling a large basin with water and putting in apples, players must then grab the apples using only their teeth.
Christianity influenced the festivities further, All Saints’ Day was moved to be celebrated on November 1st and they went on to make the 2nd of November All Souls’ Day, which, similar to Samhain, honours the dead. It is widely thought that the Church wanted to replace the Celtic feast with a more Christian-appropriate celebration. The celebration of All Souls’ Day itself is in fact very similar to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and costumes marking the day.
As All Saints Day also became known as All-Hallows Day, the 31st of October became All-Hallows Eve, eventually taking the name we know today, Halloween.
There is no country in the world where Halloween is more celebrated than the USA. The huge influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th century helped popularise the feast in North America, where it quickly spread and people began taking part by dressing up and going door to door asking for food. This of course has now become what we know as trick-or-treating, except the honour is reserved only for children and they don’t ask for just any food, they demand chocolate and sweets.
It was only during the early 20th century that Halloween evolved into a family friendly event. The feast moved towards more secular ground and most, if not all, religious and superstitiousconnotations have been forgotten. Parties and trick-or-treating replaced belief in witchcraft and ghosts and while in the past parents would discourage their children from leaving the house, nowadays parents do everything in their power to ensure their child has the best time ever.
Here in Malta, thanks to an influx of expats from the UK and beyond, as well as being a side effect of globalisation, Halloween is quickly gaining popularity. While traditions such as trick-or-treating are on the rise, especially in the central and northern parts of the island, Halloween parties at dozens of venues have been a staple fixture and a night to look forward to on the island.
At ESE, we spent the afternoon celebrating the occasion with a short and small party open to all students and staff. We all took part in a costume competition, musical zombie, a dance-off to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and wrapped each other up like mummies, and I have to say, we all had a blast!
Focus on Fluency
wicked (adj) – evil
for good measure – in addition
haunt (v)- ghosts appear in a particular area
Celts (n) – many groups of people who lived in most of Europe before the Romans
bonfires (n) – large controlled fires, usually as a form of celebration
symbol (n) – something that represents a family/company/group/person
marking (v) – celebrating
influx (n)- entry/arrival
superstitious (adj) – a supernatural belief with no scientific proof
connotations (n) – connections
Author: Benjamin Charles Cassar
About the Author: Benjamin Charles Cassar is the Academic e-Resources Coordinator at ESE. He has taught a wide range of ages and levels since joining ESE in 2011 and enjoys travelling, reading and writing when time allows.
Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest. Please feel free to write to us with any comments, suggestions or any articles you may have written and would like to share with us and our students.