Halloween Celebrations & Traditions In The UK

In Scotland and the Isle of Man, Halloween’s Celtic roots are honored through Samhain celebrations. While Americans don’t usually emphasize Halloween’s Celtic roots, the holiday’s ancient, Pagan forebear ? Samhain ? is still celebrated in Scotland and on the Isle of Man, one of the British Channel Islands, as well as Northern Ireland and Ireland. Meaning “summer’s end,” Samhain (which takes place from October 31 to November 1) marks the end of the harvest season and symbolizes the divide between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Samhain celebrations feature rituals such as bonfires and dancing.

Guy Fawkes Day (also known as Guy Fawkes Night and Bonfire Night) has historically been more significant than Halloween in the UK. Celebrated with parades, bonfires, and fireworks on November 5 ? you might be familiar with the rhyme “Remember, remember the fifth of November” ? Guy Fawkes Day commemorates the failed Gunpowder Plot. The scheme, orchestrated by Roman Catholics in 1605, was an attempt to blow up Parliament in response to King James I’s refusal to expand the religious freedom of Catholics. The commercialized, American version of Halloween, however, is also taking off.

Brits tend to wear more traditional Halloween costumes, dressing up as ghosts, zombies, and other fearsome creatures. In the UK, they tend to stick to the more traditional horror-inspired ghost/vampire/zombie/Frankenstein/ghoul costumes. It’s rare for people in the UK to put up an excessive amount of Halloween decorations. Some Halloween treats are exclusive to the US, while others are only available in the UK.

For instance, in a video posted by YouTube user Raphael Gomes it seems candy corn and pumpkin spice cotton candy aren’t a thing across the pond. But spooky sweets like Nestlé Milkybar Ghosts and Cadbury Pumpkin Patch Cakes are sold seasonally in the UK. Going door to door for candy is not as big a deal in the UK. Additionally, Brits might be more inclined to eat Halloween candy themselves rather than distribute it to kids. Dating to the middle ages, guising ? a shortening of disguising ? refers to the tradition of dressing kids in old clothes and having them mimic evil spirits on Halloween (known then as the Eve of All Saints Day or All Hallows Eve).

Going from house to house, they would be given offerings for warding off evil. Today in Scotland, children still go guising. But they’re expected to show off a talent (like singing or reciting a poem) in order to receive a treat. In Derry, the second-largest city in Northern Ireland, people celebrate Halloween with a four-day-long event called the Banks of the Foyle Carnival. The festivities include a haunted house, a parade, and more. A 2015 USA Today readers’ poll named Derry the best place in the world to celebrate Halloween.

Pumpkins are synonymous with autumn, and it’s hard to think of Halloween without picturing a glowing jack-o’-lantern. People in some parts of the UK, however, make lanterns from other root vegetables ? namely, rutabagas or turnips. The practice can possibly be traced to an Irish legend about a man named Jack who was cursed to wander the Earth by the light of a turnip lantern.

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