Halloween, celebrated on October 31, originates from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain, which marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of the New Year. The Celts believed that on this night, the line between the worlds of the living and the dead was blurred and ghosts could walk the earth, making trouble and destroying crops. People would build bonfires and wear costumes to scare off evil spirits.
The holiday was brought to the United States in the 1800s by Irish and Scottish immigrants, and has become a more secular, playful celebration since then. International students learning English in the USA in autumn can experience trick or treating, parades, costumes, candy and more!
“Trick or Treat!” and Other Traditions
Here are just a few of our favorite Halloween customs, to really get you into the Halloween “spirit” when you learn English in the USA.
- Trick or treating
Children dressed in costumes go from house to house, chanting “trick or treat” and receiving candies and treats from neighbors. The phrase comes from an outdated practice where kids threatened (mostly playfully) to make mischief if not given a sweet. No matter where you learn English in the USA, you’re sure to see these festive fiends roaming the streets on Halloween.
- Carving jack-o-lanterns
Pick a pumpkin from a nearby pumpkin patch when you’re studying English in Denver, Colorado (or at any LCI location!)—and then carve it into a jack-o-lantern! It’s traditional to cut scary or silly faces into the orange squash and put a candle inside to light up the night on Halloween.
- Visiting haunted houses
Not all of the old folklore has gone out of these frightening festivities, and a common ritual includes visiting pretend haunted houses, where actors dressed in creepy costumes surprise and scare visitors as they walk through elaborately decorated spooky settings.
Nicknamed the “Capital of Halloween Haunts,” Kansas City offers some of the oldest and most famous fright fests in the country—prepare to be petrified (if you’d like) when you learn English in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Attending fall festivities
Many people and institutions host parties, fairs and festivals throughout the Halloween season. Visit the Boo on the Boardwalk at Kemah Pier when you study English in Houston, Texas or attend the Market Street Festival in Selinsgrove if you’re studying English in Pennsylvania. (See our blog post on Learning English in Pennsylvania in the Fall for more seasonal activities in the area.)
And of course, whichever LCI Language Centers location you choose to learn English in the USA, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to gather with your classmates at Halloween parties, participate in pumpkin decorating contests and learn all about about American holiday traditions!