As a kid, I always liked Halloween. I liked dressing up in a costume that I pick out at the store or more often we made out of odds and ends at home. The best part was going trick-or-treating. Some years, I went with my brothers and sisters. When I got a little older, I went with my friends. We would go to the houses in our neighborhood and knock or ring the doorbell. When the door opened, we would yell, “trick or treat!” we never played tricks and always got treats. The neighbor would put some candy and chocolate bars in our bags. We would go home at the end of the night and eat them to our hearts’ content.
To get ready for Halloween, my parents would buy pumpkins from the market or from the make-shift pumpkin patches on the side of the road so that we could make jack-o-lanterns. We took each pumpkin and cut off the top, scooped out the seeds from the inside, and carved faces on the front. At night, we would put candles inside the Jack-o-lanterns and put them on our doorstep. Sometimes we carved scary faces and sometimes they were funny ones.
I remember that one year, we had a Halloween party. Our friends came over dressed up as witches, ghosts, superheroes, cartoon characters, and anything else you can think of. We would play party games like bobbing for apples, and we even created a haunted house in our backyard. It was a blast! Halloween is truly a holiday for kids.
Today we talk about Halloween which is a very famous holiday, not an official holiday. You don’t get the day off school or work but it’s a very popular holiday for children in the United States, in many European countries and other places throughout the world - Ireland, Canada and so forth.
The name “Halloween” is actually a construction, a combination of two words. Hallo and ween is the old English version of that. Hallo is the same as holy or sainted, someone is a saint in the Christian tradition is someone who is very holy, who is now in heaven or their soul is in heaven. and October 31 is the day before All Hallo’s Day. November 1 is All Hallo’s Day, that’s the tradition name, it’s now called at least in most churches such as Catholic church All Saint’s Day on November 1. so on October 31, the evening or the eve of November 1 would be All hallo’s Eve and hence we get the word Halloween. There are many different traditions are associated with Halloween and different explanations about why we celebrate Halloween. It was probably a pagan, a “pagan” is basically someone who doesn’t believe in one of the major religions. So the pagan tradition probably in Europe, in the very early European history, even before the days of the roman had this celebration associated with the day of the death. And the idea was that the death would come back to life and they would go around looking for food, so you would put food outside your house and that would be for the death to eat. You would also wear a mask which is something you put over your face that make you look different and the mask would scare away these evil spirits, dead spirits that come back to life. This is the one possible explanation of where we get the Halloween celebration. Nowadays at least in the United States Halloween is a children’s holiday with children dress up in costumes and they go around, they walk from house to house usually in their neighborhood and they ask for and get candies from the neighbors.
I say that when I was a kid I liked dressing up in a costume that I pick out at the store. To “dress up” -- another one of those two-word verbs where we have a verb preposition, to dress up can mean two things, it can mean simply to wear nice clothing, I am going to dress up for the wedding this Saturday, I am going to put on a tie and a suit and so forth. To dress up can also mean to put on a costume and a “costume” is clothing that make you look like a different person, so you could have a costume for a police officer and you would dress up looking like a police officer, that is a costume. Well, I used to dress up in costume that I would pick out or select at the store but more often we make our own costume out of odds and ends at home. “odds and ends” means whatever is available in your house, it could be a paper bag, it could be crayons, it could be an old hat. The term “odds and ends” just means a variety of things, a bunch of things that you have there present in your house. I say the best part of Halloween was going “trick-or-treating”. “trick or treat” is what the children say when they knock on the door. They say “trick or treat”, well what they are saying really is that ether they will play a trick on the neighbor or they will get a treat and a treat is kind of like an extra gift, a present, a prize usually associated with food, in this case candy. Again there are different stories about why we say “trick or treat”, one story is that children used to have to perform a trick in order to get a treat and a trick could be any sort of song, game or something that was supposed to be magic like a magic trick. Sometimes in the United States though the term trick means something against the person, something bad that you do to someone else, “I am going to play a trick on you” means that I am going to do something that is going to fool or deceive you, so it has both those meanings. In any case in the United States at least now the kids don’t play tricks, instead they knock on the door and they expect to get candies, so if you live in a neighborhood with children as I do, you have to go out and buy some candies so you can give them to the children or you will be a very unpopular neighbor. After you get all of your food, you could go home and eat to your heart’s content. The expression “to eat to your heart’s content” means that you eat as much as you want until you are satisfied, so you usually use that expression in talking about food “I am going to eat to my heart’s content until I feel happy or I feel satisfied”.
One thing that is associated with Halloween probably because in northern Europe and the United States it is when this vegetable is available, it is the use of pumpkins. The “pumpkin” is a round plant, usually orange in color and the tradition is that you get the pumpkin either from the store, because the grocery stores sell pumpkins now or you can go to a pumpkin patch, a pumpkin patch is a field or a place where they have pumpkins. in the United States during the Halloween you will sometimes drive by a empty parking lot or place where there wasn’t anything, no buildings, sometimes they will open up a pumpkin store there if you will, and we can call this a make-shift store, a “make-shift”-- two words that are hyphenated is an adjective that means improvise, not planned out ahead of time, usually a temporary, not a permanent solution to something. When you take the pumpkin, you cut off the top or you take a knife and you make a hole on the top of the pumpkin and you then scoop out everything that is inside, all of the pumpkin seeds and everything else inside of the pumpkin. To “scoop out”, the verb “to scoop” means to take a spoon for example and scoop out or take out something with the spoon, so you for example can scoop out ice-cream and in fact the spoon that we use especial spoon we use for ice-cream is called the ice-cream scoop as a noun. As a verb it means to take it and actually to remove the ice-cream from it’s container. And here we use the word in the same way, once again we add a preposition, to scoop out means to get out of, to take a spoon and remove what is inside the pumpkin. and after you do that you can carve a face, so you take a knife and you make a hole for the eye, and a hole for the nose, and a hole for the mouth and so forth. And this is called carving, you can carve into something means you are putting a figure or some pictures on a hard surface, it could be wood, it could be stone, in fact there is an expression “it’s not carved in stone”, that is “it’s not permanent”, because if you carve something in stone it’s going to be permanent. So you carve the pumpkin with the face, sometimes it’s a happy smiling face and sometimes it’s a scary face. The word we use for the carved pumpkin is called the jack-o-lantern, a jack hyphen o hyphen lantern, a lantern is a light, and the jack-o-lantern is called that because inside the pumpkin you put a candle so that the pumpkin has light inside of it, so it’s a lantern in that respect. When you are done carving it you then put it out in front of your house on your doorstep, the “doorstep” are the steps leading up to your front, usually your front door.
You also can have a Halloween party and both children and adults sometimes go to a Halloween party. In that Halloween party you dress up in some costume as some character or something and it’s very common to find people buying masks of different famous people and dressing up as those people. You can dress up as a witch, a witch is of course a woman who has magical power, a man who has magical power is called the war lock. a ghost is the spirit of someone who died. A superhero would be someone like superman or Mr. incredible or batman, these are superheroes. cartoon characters are like Bugs Bunny and Mickey mouse, those are cartoon characters. People dress up as all sorts of different people and things. One traditional game at the Halloween party especially for children would be bobbing for apples. to bob means in this case usually what happens is you have a bucket of water, a barrel of water, a container and in the water of apples and you have to get the apple out of the water without using your hands, so you stick your head into the water and you bite an apple and you remove it that way, that’s called bobbing for apples. one final tradition that it’s sometimes associated with Halloween is a haunted house. To be haunted means that you are influenced or affected by some sort of spiritual or magical power. And the haunted house is a house where the idea is that there are spirits living in that house. Finally I say that going to a Halloween party was a “blast”, that’s a informal expression to mean it was a lot of fun, it was really enjoyable. “Did you like going to Disney Land? yes, it was a blast” Actually I don’t like going to Disney Land but some people do.