Halloween Around The World And In The EFL Classroom

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If you can believe it, it’s Halloween!

And while you’re probably familiar with the pumpkins and trick-or-treating of Halloween in the United States, you might not realise that there are a number of different ways to celebrate Halloween. Just like Easter or Christmas, how you celebrate Halloween depends on where you are.

Read more: The Best Countries To Teach English Abroad

Here are some of the Halloween festivities which take place around the world.

Halloween in Ireland and Scotland

The origins of Halloween can actually be traced back to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. Samhain marked the changing of the seasons from summer to winter. 

According to Celtic beliefs, this also marked the time when the border between the land of the living and the land of the dead became blurred.

In other words, on this one night, the souls of the dead are able to cross into the physical world. 

People would dress themselves in costumes to disguise themselves from the spirits. They would then walk from house to house reciting poetry in exchange for food. 

Bonfires were lit to keep the darkness away and jack-o-lanterns were carved out of turnips to scare off evil spirits.

As you can see, a number of our modern Halloween traditions come from this time.

These days, Halloween is celebrated in Dublin with a Samhain festival and a fire festival is held every year in Edinburgh.

Halloween in Japan

Halloween in Japan

Japanese celebrations are decidedly more adult in nature than what we might be used to. 

Rather than trick or treating, there are loads of Halloween parties and cosplay events. There is also the Kawasaki Halloween Parade, which is usually attended by thousands of people in costumes. 

This parade is serious business: in order to participate in the parade, you need to apply for a ticket, pay a fee and adhere to strict dress guidelines.

Halloween in the Philippines

Halloween is celebrated in the Philippines as Pangangalaluwa. Children wear costumes and go door-to-door to sing and ask for prayers for those in purgatory.

Halloween in Italy

In Italy, Halloween is celebrated at the same time as Ognissanti. This is when the souls of the dead come back to visit their living relatives. 

Food is left out or a place is set at the table for the spirits, and chrysanthemums are left on the graves of both family members and strangers. In some areas children are given gifts.

Read more: Teaching English in Europe: Our Top Picks

Halloween in Poland

Halloween in Poland

In early November, people in Poland celebrate All Saint’s Day. On this day, people travel to visit the graves of their family members in cemeteries. They take candles and flowers with them.

Halloween in Mexico

While celebrated at around the same time as Halloween, Mexico celebrates El Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. 

This is a 2-day celebration held over November 1st and 2nd in honour of ancestors and deceased relatives. It is believed that at midnight on October 31st the gates of heaven are opened and the souls of the deceased are reunited with their families for a short time. 

The celebrations include flowers, food, festivals, picnics and images of intricately decorated skulls and skeletons.

Halloween in Mexico

Halloween in Germany

While Germans don’t, strictly speaking, celebrate Halloween, they celebrate All Saints’ Day between October 30 to November 8. 

During this time, people attend church, honour saints, and visit deceased relatives at their graves. People also hide their knives at this time so that the spirits won’t be harmed when they visit.

Read more: Teach English In Germany

Halloween in the United States

Perhaps not surprisingly considering its origins, Halloween wasn’t celebrated in the United States until the 19th century, when the country saw an influx of immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. 

These days Halloween is a massive celebration, with people of all ages dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door trick-or-treating.

Halloween pumpkins

Halloween in the EFL classroom

But no matter where you are in the world, we can use Halloween as a means of teaching English in the EFL classroom.

Halloween Brainstorm

With your students, brainstorm common characters related to Halloween. For example, zombies, vampires, ghosts, wizards and witches. Next, list Halloween objects, such as a jack o’lanterns, broomsticks, bats and candy. In groups, the students come up with a scary story using the characters and objects.

Halloween baking

Who doesn’t love to bake? Get creative in your kitchen, uh, classroom, and make some tasty Halloween treats with your students. Think spiderweb cupcakes, bat biscuits and xxx. Older learners can mix and match recipes. Younger learners can get their hands dirty and get involved in decorating.


Halloween half a crossword

Create a half a crossword with vocabulary related to Halloween. If you’re unfamiliar with this activity, it’s a great activity to encourage communication in the classroom. Create your half a crossword with this free online creator. Simply type in your vocabulary and the site does the rest! Your students must explain their half of the crossword to their partners so that together they complete the crossword.

The same can be done with a simple wordsearch.

Guess my costume

In pairs, students describe their Halloween costume of choice to each other. (Alternatively, pictures of popular costumes can be provided).They must draw their partner’s costume. The trick? They must sit back-to-back while they are drawing! Once they have completed their drawing they must identify what the costume is.

Halloween traditions

If your students are different nationalities, group them together. Give them time to describe their particular Halloween traditions, or of a similar festival. You can start by describing how you used to celebrate Halloween as a child, or with your children. Even better if you have photos!

Children in a classroom dressed in Halloween costumes

Extra free resources and activities

Of course there are many other frightfully good Halloween resources online for your EFL lessons.

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