Halloween is an exciting time in classrooms across America. Kids enjoy dressing up and collecting candy, and they often have class parties with games and treats. This spooky holiday also has roots in ancient festivals of Celtic and pagan origin, which makes for an out-of-the-ordinary history lesson for youngsters. Celebrate the season with fun facts and trivia question games for your kids’ Halloween party.
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Halloween is derived from the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain, which was celebrated by the druids in what is now the UK and Ireland. According to the Celtic people, October 31 was the last day of the harvest, and the beginning of the winter season was November 1st. Historians debate the actual traditions of Samhain, but it is commonly held that the druids believed that on Samhain, the dead could contact the world of the living for only that one night. People dressed up in scary furs and masks to frighten the spirits away. This is where our present-day tradition of ghosts, zombies and dressing up comes from. For classroom use, prepare a word-fill activity or a reading selection on the history of Halloween and have kids complete it in groups, answering questions such as “Where were the druids from?” or “What was the purpose of dressing up on Samhain?”
In the United States, where Halloween is most popular, children dress up as goblins, princesses or even silly celebrities, and they go door-to-door saying “Trick or treat?” Though usually for kids, people of all ages participate in ghost stories, going to haunted houses and hosting parties where people wear costumes, bob for apples and drink apple cider. Many households also carve pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, which stems from an Irish tradition of carving turnips and putting embers inside to make a torch and scare away evil spirits. For your Halloween party, ask children in which tradition their family participates, and read a story together about the origin of the name jack-o’-lantern.
Culturally, Halloween is second only to Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year in America. Over 30 million kids participate in trick-or-treating each year in the U.S., and Americans spend almost as much money on Halloween costumes, candy and parties as they do at Christmastime. Horror movies are a huge industry in the U.S., with many of them centering around the Halloween holiday. Watch an age-appropriate scary movie with your class and ask them what they noticed in the film that relates to Halloween as we celebrate it today.
Build a Halloween bingo board with simple spooky images such as black cats, bats, Dracula, a haunted house and ghosts, and play a round with your class. Although the teacher should always handle sharp objects, kids love carving pumpkins and always love getting messy cleaning them out. Play Halloween trivia games by dividing the class into two teams. Have the teams take turns going head-to-head answering spine-tingling questions related to the scary celebration. As with all competitive activities, bring consolation prizes for all the children so no one feels left out.