UK Halloween Traditions
The UK has a strong connection to Halloween given the event started here around 2000 years ago. According to historical sources, Halloween is traditionally a celebration from the Celts, who celebrated their New Year on November 1. Despite being a Pagan tradition, the celebration has become bigger and bigger, more commercial and is celebrated by many around the world regardless of the original religious nature.
Halloween is celebrated annually on 31st October but events tend to take place throughout the week surrounding this date. Schools and workplaces tend to decorate their buildings with cobwebs, dangling spiders from the ceilings, tombstones, witch’s cauldrons, black cats and zombies. Some communities take Halloween very seriously and even host competitions for which house is best decorated.
One important decoration is the Jack-o-lantern, which is a pumpkin with a face carved into it. In the UK, this originally started with swedes and turnips but the American alternative of a carved pumpkin quickly caught on here. This is lit up with a candle in the centre.
By the time it gets to 31st October, the most traditional activity is trick-or-treating. Children and their parents dress up in Halloween costumes such as witches, zombies, devils, mummies, monsters and the like and go door-to-door in their neighbourhood. After knocking on a door, typically the children would shout “trick or treat”. The owner of the house can choose either a trick (the children play a trick on them) or a treat (the house owner gives them sweets). Nowadays huge bags of sweets can be bought at the supermarkets to give to children.
As well as sweets from a bag, children may receive toffee apples. These are apples on a stick that haven been dipped in toffee. They’re delicious but may break a tooth! Apples are also used for a popular game at this time of the year – apple bobbing. You fill a bucket with water and float some apples in it. Place your hands behind your back and use your mouth to pick up the apples. This is also a very fun game for kids.
Halloween isn’t just for the children though. Universities and clubs have huge Halloween parties where teenagers and adults can dress up and party or even watch horror films, which tend to be trending on streaming platforms around this time of the year.
Another traditional British celebration, Bonfire Night, also takes place around this time of the year. Read all about Bonfire Night in our blog. Fireworks and bonfires are traditional for this celebration and may even start as early as Halloween.