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Real Meaning of Halloween | A Kids Guide

Bamboozled when the kids ask you what is the actual meaning of Halloween? Me too… so here it is… a Kids Guide to the Real Meaning of Halloween!

What is Halloween based on?

Despite rumours to the contrary, Halloween is not an American tradition! Despite ‘commercialising’ it, the real meaning of Halloween (or Hallowe’en) can be traced back to its ancient origins dating back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

It is a Western Christian tradition devoted to remembering the dead including saints and martyrs.

Why is Halloween celebrated on 31 October?

Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints‘ or Hallowmas) on 1 November and All Souls’ Day on 2 November, thus giving the day on 31 October the full name of All Hallows’ Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows’ Day).

Why do people dress up for Halloween?

Real Meaning of Halloween

Dressing up in costumes has its origins with the Druids and is said to have been done to keep themselves safe from evil spirits.

In modern times, Halloween is celebrated, mostly by children, by ‘trick or treating’ and wearing costumes and going door to door in their neighbourhood.

Why do People ‘Trick or Treat’ for Halloween?

Real Meaning of Halloween!

Beginning in the Middle-Ages, children and sometimes poor adults would dress up in the costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers, often said on behalf of the dead.  This was called “souling” and the children were called “soulers”. This has been adapted to our modern day dressing up and ‘begging’ for sweets when going door to door on October 31.

What else do people do to celebrate Halloween?

Halloween activities include:

  • trick or treating – find neighbourhoods participating here
  • attending Halloween costume parties with Halloween inspired food,
  • decorating houses and businesses
  • carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns,
  • lighting bonfires,
  • apple bobbing,
  • playing pranks,
  • visiting haunted attractions,
  • telling scary stories and
  • watching scary movies and TV shows.

The meaning of Halloween – remembering the dead

So, now you know! The facts about Halloween including the meaning of Halloween. Remember, this year, when you hand out sweets or shepherd your children through the streets, remind the kids about the deeper meaning of the event: that death is no barrier to love and we can hold those dear to us in our hearts and minds forever.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

1 thought on “Real Meaning of Halloween | A Kids Guide”

  1. Great article! This is what I was always told (living in England!) about Trick or Treat:

    Centuries ago, because the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest at this time of year, celts would leave offerings (treats) out to appease any evil spirits in the hope that they wouldn’t harm or curse (trick) them. As superstitions over the centuries broke down – and the Christian church discouraged pagan festivals – it was adapted to become a fun festival with just a nod to the centuries old tradition in the trick or treating that we know of today.

    As a kid we didn’t go trick or treating, but we would have parties where we’d dress up and bob for apples and eat lots of toffee.


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