The UK – Samhain
In the UK, as well as Ireland and Scotland, Halloween can be traced back to Samhain, a Pagan ‘day of the dead’ feast. This evolved into children carving beets and turnips into ‘Punkies’, which they would carry around while singing, and knock on neighbours’ doors asking for money.
This eventually became Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night (in Britain, at least) which moved to the 5th November. As well as the Halloween we know, the UK still celebrates Bonfire Night by lighting fires in which to burn an effigy of ‘Guy’ – usually a scarecrow made of sacking and sticks with a turnip as a head. There will also be lots of fireworks, as well as cider, mulled wine and nuts to roast over the fire. Many towns and villages will band together to be able to provide the best yearly firework display, although some people will also have their own events by setting them off in their backyards.
In recent years, the US version of Halloween has become much more popular and is celebrated in the usual way with carved pumpkins and decorations on 31st. Most children dress up to trick or treat, but as it’s not yet a totally-established activity, older residents often have no idea why little ghosts and zombies keep turning up on their doorsteps demanding candy!