Ancient Roots, Modern Holidays for Kids and Teachers - Halloween and Chillalley Illustration

Ancient Roots, Modern Holidays for Kids - Halloween

We love Halloween! It's one of our favorite holidays. We were surprised to hear that in Austria they do not celebrate Halloween. Instead, they celebrate a holiday called Rauhnachte. A long time ago, farmers used to believe, on Rauhnachte, animals in the barn could speak and had other magical powers!

Halloween History: No one is sure how old Halloween really is, but trace its probable origins back to BC times to the ancient Celts, who lived in England, Ireland and Wales.

The ancient Celts held a festival called Samhain, which celebrated the start of a new year. Halloween was their New Years Eve.

The ancient Celts believed that the night before each new year, a door opened between this world and the Otherworld - a place the ancient Celts believed was inhabited by supernatural spirits both good and bad. They believed that October 31 was the most dangerous night in the year. That night, people were exposed to the entire supernatural world.

Black Cats & Spooky Tales: The ancient Celts believed, on October 31st, the good spirits of the dead would come back to earth, in the form of an animal, often in the form of a black cat, to be reunited with loved ones, one last time. Today, silhouettes of black cats are used as Halloween decorations, and everyone tells spooky tales!

Pumpkins: How did pumpkins get in the act? No one knows! It's a history mystery! (This mystery makes a great subject for a creative writing lesson.) But most probably, pumpkins replaced turnips, which is the vegetable people used to carve during the ancient new year festival.

Baked Pumpkin Seeds: Baked pumpkin seeds are easy to make and fun to eat! Here's the recipe we use: Dig out the pumpkin seeds, rinse them off, let them dry on a paper towel for a couple of hours, dump them on a cookie sheet (without the paper towel, of course), and cook at 400 degrees for about an hour. Throw them in a bowl, sprinkle with butter and salt, and eat, shells and all.

Pumpkin Soft drink: For a pumpkin themed soft drink, place one or two scoops of orange sherbet in a glass. Pour in cold ginger ale. Add a straw, and drink!

Free Interactive Online Games for Kids (flash games have been removed)

Arthur's Tricks and Treats, interactive

Halloween breaker game

Halloween memory game

Pumpkin Blaster game

Spells Casting game

Halloween Game

How much do you know about Halloween?

Halloween Bats

The Ghost With the Most


For Teachers

Chillalley: A great way to get the kids writing is to write one story by rows. This is a fun and meaningful activity. It takes no prep and the kids really love it. 5th to 9th grades. This is not a graded activity.

First, talk about words that writers use to scare their readers or prepare readers for something scary. They use music and lighting in movies. Ask: How do writers do the same thing using words. It's like a magic trick - it's not so scary when you know how it's done. Depending upon the grade and your time, you can throw in a short story or short video to demonstrate the writing behind a scary story. Brainstorm some words. Brainstorm Halloween words.

Then, if your desks are not already in rows, position them in rows. Or, if you work in round tables that works too.

Hand out pieces of lined paper. Direct each student to start a story. At the sound of the howl (a wolf call is nice) they must stop writing and hand their story to the student behind them even if they are in the middle of a sentence. The last student in the row brings the story they have been working on to the first person in the row each time the wolf howls. Make sure they understand the rules.

Start. Keep this going until all kids have had a chance to participate in all the stories per row or per round table - not all the stories, just the ones in their row.

Give them some warning about half way through. Announce: You are at the middle of your story. You are getting close to the end. Everyone - end the story you are holding.

Ask for volunteers. Have the students read a couple. Collect the stories. After school, post them all on the wall in your classroom or in the hallway outside of your room (with permission from the office of course.) The kids feel safe because they are only part of the story authorship, so I don't ask their permission; I post them all. I add Halloween type cutouts. I tilt things, including the stories, to make the wall interesting. Note to new teachers: NO TOMBSTONES. As teachers, we do not always know if a student has recently lost someone they know or love. Tombstone cutout are so easy to make, and can have such devasting consequences.) .

Typically, the stories are surprisingly good, and quite often humorous. And typically, once the stories are posted, the kids talk about the stories to each other. I give them some class time to do that at the end of class over the next couple days - 5 minutes max per day. We can't spend a lot of time on this, but they'll say things like: That's not where I was going with my story, but I like it. (It's funny. It's always "my" story.) As teachers, I'm sure you know how exciting it is when your students support each others efforts. I've even seen new friendships spring up, someone impressed by another student's sense of humor or whatever. I love this lesson.

Position the timing of this lesson no more than 10 days, no less than 4 days prior to Halloween. One year I only had them posted for four days. The kids whined. They actually wanted to read them.

Ghosts and Fears in Language Arts 9th to 12th grades (read, think, write)