What is Halloween?

Hallowe'en or All-Hallows-Eve takes place on the night of 31 October. Hallow is the old English word for saint.

On All Hallows Day (1 November) the Catholic Church remembers Christian martyrs. This feast day can be traced back to the Middle Ages.  

All Souls Day follows on 2 November. On All Souls Day Catholics pray for the 'souls of the departed'

So is Halloween Christian or Pagan? 

Both. Like Christmas, Halloween combines pagan & Christian customs. 

  • The lighting of bonfires symbolizes the plight of souls lost in purgatory (Catholic) while frightening away witches and ghouls (Pagan). 

  • souling - going door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for "soul cakes" and other treats.
  • mumming (or "guising") was acustom originally associated with Christmas. It consisted of parading in costume, chanting rhymes, and play-acting.  Source

But isn't the Catholic Church against Halloween?

Not exactly. It just does not recognise it as a religious holiday (again like Christmas Eve). Nor does it approve of modern attempts to connect Halloween with devil worship.

Today  the religious elements of Halloween eclipse the pagan ones. Sadly, there are no Jack O Lanterns in the Bible!

Another example of the devil having all the best tunes ...

Is Halloween a pagan festival?

Is Halloween a pagan festival?

Halloween often features in Victorian ghost stories.  

E. Nesbit's 'Man-Made-in-Marble' is a good example - read and/or listen to a retelling here.

Classic Ghost Stories
1.99 4.99

Three classic ghost stories retold by 'one of the best writers of language learner materials in English'. 


The Signalman by Charles Dickens * The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson * The Marble Finger by Edith Nesbit (adapted from Man-Made-in-Marble) 


The Lawyer & the Ghost by Charles Dickens (adapted from The Pickwick Papers) * Long Black Veil (ballad with video)

Language Level:

Intermediate/Upper Intermediate/Advanced (Lawyer & Ghost) 

Age: Too scary for very young children!

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