Teach kids the origin of Halloween and Trick or Treating

by Mary Ann on October 19, 2011

Autumn, a time for different celebrations

Halloween is coming and whether or not it is a holiday that you celebrate you can use it to teach your children a myriad of things. So here are some ideas for your Closet for next week.

The Celts were a tribal people.

1. Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, pronounced “sah-win”. This festival is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. The Celts were a tribal society in Roman-era Europe.

The Romans worshiped various gods and on October 31, a special feast was held in honor of Pomona, goddess of the fruit trees.

Why not put some books about the Celts and Romans in your Closet and tie them to the beginnings of Halloween.

Books for kids about the Celts and Romans

• Celts (Usborne Beginners) by Leonie Pratt – This is a very refreshing book aimed at the younger reader up to about 7 years old.
• Who Were the Romans? by Phil Roxbee Cox – The book is best suited for ages 6-8 years.
• Romans (Usbourne Beginners) By Katie Daynes – for ages 5-7
• Roman Things to Make and Do (Usborne Activities) by Leonie Pratt – Activities that you can add to your Closet.
• Celts (Britain Through the Ages) By Hazel Mary Martel – Focuses on Celtic life in Iron Age Britain.

2. The Celts came to Britain and Ireland around 500BC. The Celts called Britain and Ireland the “Pretanic Islands” which evolved into the modern word “Britain”.

A Celtic Knot

Make a Celtic Knot Greeting Card 

History of  Trick-or-treating

Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day. Now you can add some books about Ireland and Britain.

King Arthur was a legendary British leader of the late 5th century. This would be a fun person to study.

King Arthur was a legendary king in early Britain.

Books for kids about Ireland, Britain and King Arthur

• Camelot: A Collection of Original Arthurian Stories
• Castle: An Interactive Guide to Castles
• Excalibur by Hudson Talbott – Arthur leads his knights in glorious battle and takes on heroic quests to prove himself. Ages 7-up
• Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne – King Arthur to Sir Gawain to Beowulf to Robin Hood
• King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur edited by Sidney Lanier. This adaptation of the classic text is part of the Illustrated Junior Library collection.

Build a castle for King Arthur and his knights. 

Halloween and similar celebrations in other countries

3. In Scotland this holiday is called All-Hallows-Eve. Get a book on Scotland and learn a bit about the country and the people.

Make a Scottish Stick puppet. 

A Scottish stick puppet

Books for kids about Scotland and All-Hallows-Eve:

• All Hallows Eve: The Story of the Halloween Fairy by Lisa Sferlazza Johnson
• The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith Two kids find a strange egg on the beach, and when it hatches, they hide it in the bathtub.
• The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster by A.W. Flaherty, Scott Magoon Delightful tale of the Loch Ness monster, and a little girl who doesn’t like to eat her oatmeal, the national breakfast food of Scotland.
• The Boggart by Susan Cooper When Emily and Jessup’s family inherits a crumbling castle on Lismore Island in the middle of Loch Linnhe, the kids encounter the Boggart, a gleeful spirit that flitters about, likes bacon and sausage, and plays tricks before breakfast.
• The Story of Scotland by Richard Brassy, Stewart Ross Humorous illustrated history of Scotland, from Skara Brae, to the Romans, Robert the Bruce Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, plus castles, legends, and famous figures. (Picture book)
• B is for Bagpipes by Eve Begley Kiehm, Alexa Rutherford Scotland from A to Z in quick rhymes and fun facts – from Auld Lang Syne, clans, dances, food, landmarks, kings and queens, to Zetland, the northernmost isles. (Picture book)

4. Mexico has a Day of the Dead Celebration. This is not a scary time but a time for happiness and fun. Learn a bit about the country, the people and the celebration.

Good food is part of Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration

Books for kids about Mexico and the Day of the Dead:

• Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead by Kathleen Krull
• The Spirit of Tio Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story by Janice Levy
• Postcards from Mexico by Arnold, Helen
• Mexico, A True Book by Heinrichs, Ann
• Life World Library: Mexico by Johnson, William Webber
• Mexico, Rookie Read-About Geography by Marx, David

Make a Mexican God’s Eye.

By the way this could lead you to an adventure to learn about the Aztecs!

• The Aztecs, Journey into Civilization by Nicholson, Robert

5. In China on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month they have a Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival).

Free Coloring pages for kids of the Ghost Festival

Make some Good Luck Goldfish

Chinese Good Luck Goldfish

6. Have a map handy to find all these wonderful countries.

7. You might have a conversation about why people celebrate the dead; fear the dead and how your family views the dead.

8. Books for kids on Halloween in America

• Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past by Diane C. Arkins
• Halloween: An American Holiday by Lesley Bannatyne
• Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning ghosts: the Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth. Hee is a book to explain all the funny business on October 31. It opens the door for a conversation about why you do or don’t celebrate this holiday and the value of symbols.

Jack-o-lantern lanterns to make

Make a Jack-o-lantern lantern.

9. Why not talk about the autumn season. Talk about why we have seasons, why leaves turn colors and fall to the ground.

Make an autumn door hanger. 

10. Have a family harvest celebration. Decorate; bake pies, dance and sing.

What ever you choose to do during the last week of October make it fun, fill it with learning and do it together.

Have an autumn family fling and invite some friends.

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