Halloween 2021

Halloween History, Crafts, and Fun Ways to Celebrate

August 19, 2021
Halloween Scene
Alexander Raths/Shutterstock

This year, Halloween falls on Sunday! Learn all about this holiday’s fascinating history (it may surprise you!). We also have a bagful of Halloween treats for you from delicious recipes, cool crafts, poetry, and fun activities—from a Trick-or-Treat Trail to a Stick-or-Treat lollipop garden!

When Is Halloween?

Halloween, traditionally called “All Hallows’ Eve,” is celebrated on the evening before the Christian holy day of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints Day (November 1). Therefore, Halloween is always celebrated on October 31.

When Is Halloween This Year?

Year Day of Halloween
2021 Sunday, October 31
2022 Monday, October 31
2023 Tuesday, October 31
2024 Thursday, October 31

In England, saints or holy people were called “hallowed,” hence the name “All Hallows’ Day.” The evening—or “e’en”—before the feast became popularly known as “All Hallows’ Eve,” or, even shorter, “Hallowe’en.”

Halloween cat and owl

A Brief History of Halloween

The origin of Halloween can be traced to the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, which rhymes with cow-in), meaning Summer’s End. This festival celebrated the end of harvesttime and the beginning of the “dark half” of the year. It was a seasonal marker as the ancient Celts bid good-bye to warmth and light as day length shortened.

The ancient Celts believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its thinnest during Samhain. This had positive benefits, as it was an ideal time to consider the dead, communicate with the deceased, and also to divine the future. However, the Celts also believed that some spirits (ghosts) could pass through the wall and damage their crops. To mark the event, people would build huge bonfires to burn crops.

In later years, the Irish used hollowed-out, candlelit turnips carved with a demon’s face to frighten away spirits. When Irish immigrants in the 1840s found few turnips in the United States, they used the more plentiful pumpkins instead. See more about the origins of popular Halloween traditions—from witches on broomsticks to bobbing apples.

Following the Roman Empire’s rule over Celt-occupied lands in the 1st century A.D., the Romans incorporated many of the Celtic traditions, including Samhain, with their own. Eight hundred years later, the Roman Catholic Church further modified Samhain, designating November 1 as All Saints’ Day, in honor of all Catholic saints. This day was formerly known as Allhallowmas, hallow meaning to sanctify, or make holy.

All Saints’ Day is known in England as All Hallows’ Day. The evening before, October 31, is known as All Hallows’ Eve—or, more commonly, Halloween!

If All Saints brings out winter,
St. Martin brings out Indian summer

Celebrating Halloween

Many of the practices of Halloween are innocent fun, though some deal with reminders of death and concepts of good and evil.

Halloween was once known as “Nutcrack Night” in England—a time when the family gathered around the hearth to enjoy cider and nuts and apples.

1. Carve Pumpkins

Carving pumpkins is North America’s most popular custom. Every year childen enjoy scooping out the insides of the pumpkin with a spoon and carving their pumpkin with a littl ehelp from parents (often, a lot of help if they’re young!). See our guide to How to Carve a Pumpkin from Farmer Mike.

Pumpkin carving

Painting Pumpkins

As carved pumpkins only last 3 to 7 days without rotting, it can be fun to paint your pumpkins, too. This is fun for all ages but especially good for schools, groups, and offices who want to have an early pumpkin decorating contest. See who comes up with the best design! Give awards for most creative, funny, and artistic pumpkins.

Credit: Biggs-Hansen Orthdontist staff

2. Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Of course, once you scoop out the pumpkin insides, you need to roast those pumpkin seeds! Careful, these salty and crispy snacks go fast! See our recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

If you don’t like to eat seeds, you can also save those pumpkin seeds to make a colorful pumpkin seed necklace.


3. Wear Halloween Costumes

Everyone loves a chance to dress up in Halloween costumes. The traditional costumes are spooky or Halloween-related such as witches, zombies, ghosts, and vampires. However, in the United States, the costumes get silly, too, from giant bananas to superhero characters to whatever your imagination conjures! 

You certainly do not need to buy a costume; the tradition was to make your costume from home. Toilet paper is all you need to become a mummy. An old white sheet can become a ghost. Add some facepaint to create a vampire. See ideas for Halloween Makeup and Fake Blood From the Pantry.


4. Make Halloween Crafts

There are many fun Halloween activities and crafts. Here are some of our favorites from years past:

  1. Apple bobbing. Traditionally, we all bobbed our heads in a giant metal tub of water in an attempt to grab an apple with only our teeth. Today, many parents find this unhealthy. But here is a fun alternative: Give each person a bucket of water with an apple and challenge them to take a bite. Make it a race and give the winner a prize.
  2. Cornhusks dolls were made by Native American children long ago and it’s a fun activity today. See how to make a Traditional Corn Husk Doll
  3. Ever made shrunken apple heads? This tradition also came from Native Americans. All you need are apples! See how to make Spooky Apple Heads.

► Discover our best Halloween crafts here!

Candy apples

5. Cook Up Yummy Treats

Of course, you’ve all heard the saying, “Trick or Treat?”  The “treats” are much preferred to the “tricks.” Here are some classic favorites before the days of packaged candy:

  1. Candy Apples
  2. Peanut Brittle
  3. Oven Caramel Corn
  4. Peanut Butter Balls
  5. If you like classic Oreos, you’ll like making these spooky spider cookies—and eating them afterwards!

► Discover our best Halloween recipes here!

6. More Ideas for a Safe and Fun Halloween!

Here are six more fun and family-friendly ideas for the young and young at heart!

  1. Trick-or-Treat Trail: Give kids a simple map to your neighborhood. As they walk around the neighborhood with their map, they need to follow clues to get treats. It could be as simple as a road sign, a house that has big stones at the end of the driveway, a big tree, or a unique mailbox. If you have neighbors that decorate their home and porches, you can try to find pumpkins, skeletons, and more! Just drop a treat in your child’s bag at each stop. A similar idea for more of a neighborhood event is to give neighbors pumpkin drawings to put in their windows and give children a treat when they spot the next pumpkin drawing; this idea takes a little planning and close neighbors!
  2. Halloween Hide-and-Seek: Similar to an egg hut, hide wrapped candies throughout the house or yard, and let the kids go find the treats. You can also turn it into a candy scavenger hunt with clue cards so they can follow clues to fill their buckets with candy that’s hidden around your home or yard. 
  3. Ghost Story Time: Here at the Almanac, this is an occasion to tell ghost stories! (They can be scary or not-so-scary, depending on your childrens’ age and temperament.) Gather around with cozy pillows and blankets and a few candles or flashlights. Need a tale to read on Halloween eve? Here’s a scary and surprisingly touching ghost story from the Almanac archives to read aloud to your family! Or, here are 17 kid-friendly spooky stories
  4. BOO! Your Neighbor:  A newer tradition is create a “You’ve Been BOOed!” basket or baggie which you leave on the doorstep of a family member, friends, or neighbor—complete with a small treat and a sign or poster that says, “You’ve Been BOOed!” Then display the sign in your window, and pass on the kindness! 
  5. Halloween Party and Movie Night: Have a family party! Bob for apples (in individual bowls if you wish), try to catch donuts hanging on a string with your mouth, wrap one another as mummies with toilet paper and see who finishes their roll first. Rent a Halloween Movie with Halloween-themed snacks and candy! Ideas for G movies to rent: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. PG movies: The Addams Family, Hotel Transylvania, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Beetlejuice. See more “G” and “PG” Halloween movies for kids.
  6. Stick-or-Treat: Instead of having people exchange candy at your door, just put the candy out on a blanket in separate bags or stick the candy in the ground like this clever parent who created a lollipop garden in the mulch …

If you have time, wrap the Tootsie Roll Lolllipops in tissue and turn them into ghosts! 


Halloween Poems

Wake up your walking dead with these Halloween poems! They are perfect to read in the evening or to add to a homemade card.

From “Spirits of the Dead”
By Edgar Allan Poe
“Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still

From “Song of the Witches” (Macbeth)
By William Shakespeare
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

From “All Soul’s Night, 1917”
by Hortense King Flexner
“You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath—
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.”

From “Theme in Yellow”
By Carl Sandburg
“I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know I am fooling

From “Hallowe’en”
By Joel Benton
“Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite
All are on their rounds to-night,—
In the wan moon’s silver ray
Thrives their helter-skelter play.

Don’t we all, of long ago
By the ruddy fireplace glow,
In the kitchen and the hall,
Those queer, coof-like pranks recall?

Every shadows were they then—
But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen
Precious would be Hallowe’en

Happy Halloween, everyone!

What’s your favorite Halloween tradition? Let us know in the comments!


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Halloween Halloween Halloween Halloween Sunday Halloween Halloween on Sunday

Hallowe'en (Samhain)

Blessed Samhain to all my brothers and sisters in the northern hemisphere, and a Blessed Beltaine to all of my brothers and sisters in the southern hemisphere.

Samhain is my favourite Sabbat. I celebrate it by, after arranging 'protection', by 'communicating' with those that have departed from the land of the living. I find this rewarding but very tiring as it seems that so many of the departed wish to 'get across' a message to those on this side of the veil. (Last year (2018) it took me more than a week to 'recover' as I felt so drained by all that was going on.)

Our tradition

Every year since 1977 my husband John has read me Washington Irving's story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Most often we go on an autumn picnic and he will read at least a portion of it there. Recently we have been inviting neighbors over to listen to the story-so beautifully written and such a treasure. Our only rule is that we must finish the story by Halloween night!

Want more candy?!

Ok so first of all you can bring a big garbage bag and people will think you have a tiny bit of candy because the bag is so bag and it looks like you have barely any. Or you can bring a backpack and trick or treat bag and whenever you get candy in your trick or treat bag you put the candy in the backpack so it looks like you have no candy in your trick or treat bag and people will give you more candy. Or you can impress the peoples giving candy by acting, dancing, singing, doing tricks etc. or you can bring a cute child or pet with a little bag they have to carry for you so you can get a few extra treats! Yay, candy!

what is halloween

nice info

Wrong date for Halloween 2020

Halloween for 2020 will be Saturday 10/31/20. The article has it listed as a Friday which is incorrect due to the leap year.

Halloween 2020

The Editors's picture

Thanks for catching that! We’ve corrected the date.

Halloween is cool but im

Halloween sounds cool. I'm Muslim so I don't celebrate, but to whoever celebrates, have fun and enjoy!!!!!

What should I do on Halloween

What should I do on Halloween night to bring good luck

You can't do anything to

You can't do anything to bring good luck or bad luck.
Your fate is based on your destiny.

In India we also has similar

In India we also has similar day called Kali Chaudas..

I like halloween.

I like halloween.

As a pagan I would like to

As a pagan I would like to say a Happy Samhain to you all I hope the new year is all that you hope it to be. Thank you for all your information. May the Goddess look kindly on you. Blessed Be and Merry Meet.

My fiance and I ate planning

My fiance and I ate planning a Celtic Hand fasting style wedding for this year's Samhain. Such a very bleseed way to start the new year...

Really we are waiting for the

Really we are waiting for the Halloween Day. Thanks for making it clear that this Halloween Day 2014 falls on Friday which is on October 31st.

Halloween on Friday is more rare days which we see in life.

Wish everyone a
Happy Halloween Day 2014

Haha, comes in fitting of

Haha, comes in fitting of Friday 13th. It's on a Friday. Also if you switch the numbers around you get... FRIDAY 13th! A very demented day :) have a nice halloween!

Happy Halloween!! Won't be

Happy Halloween!! Won't be long and it will be here!!

Most people misunderstand

Most people misunderstand dressing up on Halloween.
The ancient Celtic belief was to dress up as what you would like to be in the coming year, in the hope that your wish would be granted.

Most people don't care

Holidays evolve. Did you read this article?

i like halloween

i like halloween