Halloween has its origins in pagan festivals held around the end of October in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. People believed that, at this time of year, the spirits of dead people could come 'alive' and walk among the living. They thought that it was important to dress up in costumes when venturing outside, to avoid being harmed by the spirits. This may be the origin of the Halloween costumes seen today. In Puritan times, Halloween celebrations were outlawed, but they were revived in later times.

Halloween used to be called All Hallows Eve, or the day before All Saints' Day, observed on November 1. Halloween is also known as Nut-crack Night, Thump-the-door Night or Apple and Candle Night. Some people call Halloween Bob Apple Night or Duck Apple Night. This comes from a traditional game played at this time of year and known as 'apple bobbing' or 'apple ducking'. A bucket or other container is filled with water and one or more apples are floated on the water. The contestants take turns trying to catch an apple with their teeth. They must hold their hands behind their backs at all times.

Some people believe that apple bobbing is a reminder of the way women accused of witchcraft in the middle ages were tried. They were tied to a chair and repeatedly ducked into a river or pond. If a woman drowned, she was declared innocent. If she survived, she was declared a witch and burnt at the stake. Others think that apple bobbing is a way for young people to predict who they will marry or whether their partner is faithful.

Some aspects of the modern Halloween celebrations, such as carving lanterns out of vegetables originated long ago. Others were introduced more recently, often as a form of commercial promotion. Many customs originated in the United States and have travelled back to the United Kingdom.


Halloween celebrations in the United Kingdom include parties where guests are often expected to arrive in a costume to reflect the day's theme. Other people gather together to watch horror films, either at home or at a cinema.

Some children go trick-or-treating. This means that they dress up and go to other peoples' houses, knocking on the door for treat of sweets or a snack. Those who do not give out a treat may be tricked with a joke instead.

Halloween has its origins in pagan festivals in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Many stores and businesses see Halloween as a chance to promote products with a Halloween theme.