Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bet You Didn't Know: Halloween (video)

It's one of America's favorite holidays, but what's the real story behind the tricks and treats of Halloween?

Watch the video and answer the following questions.
  1. What do most people think of when they think of Halloween?
  2. How far back can the origins of Halloween be traced?
  3. What day was Samhain ( /ˈsɑːwɪn/, /ˈs.ɪn/) celebrated on?
  4. What did the Celts believe happened on the night before Samhain?
  5. What would people do to prevent spirits from harming them?
  6. Why did they wear masks before they left the house?
  7. When did the Christian Church turn Samhain into All Saints' Day?
  8. What was the night before called?
  9. In the medieval tradition of souling what would the needy do in return for the soul cakes?
  10. In the tradition of guising what would young people do ?
  11. Who brought these old traditions to America? When?
  12. When did Halloween take on its current form?
  13. What is the estimated cost of celebrating Halloween each year?
When most people think of Halloween, they think of trick-or-treating, parades, bobbing for apples and other family-friendly activities. But bet you didn't know the true story behind the ancient origins of Halloween. It all gets back some 2,000 years to the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain celebrated on November 1st. On the night before Samhain people believed that the dead returned as ghosts. They would leave food and wine on their doorsteps to keep roaming spirits at bay and were masked when they left the house so they would be mistaken for fellow ghosts.
The Christian Church turned Samhain into All Saints' Day or All Hallows in the 8th century. The night before became All Hallows' Eve, later shortened to Halloween.
You've heard of trick-or-treating on Halloween but what about souling or guising? All three of these traditions originated in medieval Britain. On All Souls' Day, November 2nd, the needy would beg for pastries known as soul cakes. In return they would pray for people's dead relatives. This was called souling. In the medieval Halloween tradition of guising young people would dress up in costume and accept food, wine, money and other offerings in exchange for singing, reciting poetry or telling jokes.
In 19th century America Irish and Scottish immigrants revived these old traditions. The result was trick-or-treating. At first it was much more about the tricks in the form of pranks and hijinks than treats. It wasn't until the 1950s that the custom took on its current family-friendly, kid-centered form. Today Halloween is big business with US consumers spending more than $2.5 billion on costumes annually. Add in the candy and it's estimated that Americans spend $6 billion on Halloween each year making it the second most commercial holiday after Christmas. So whether you are a fun of tricks, treats or trivia, there's a bit of Halloween history. I bet you didn't know...

  • When you keep somebody or something at bay, you prevent someone or something unpleasant from harming you. e.g. The soldiers kept the attackers at bay. [=they did not allow the attackers to come closer]
  • Roaming means moving or travelling with no particular purpose. e.g. After the pubs close, gangs of youths roam the city streets.
  • A spirit is a ghost. 
  • A prank is a trick that is done to someone usually as a joke.  
  • High jinks (US hijinks) (plural noun, informal) = energetic and excited behaviour in which people do funny things or play tricks on someone  

Halloween - History of the Jack O’ Lantern (worksheet) 
Halloween Crossword (worksheet)


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