Halloween Traditions, Customs, Symbols and Terms

Halloween Display

Rich in tradition, Halloween has no shortage of symbols and customs. There are many common Halloween traditions, and even more Halloween customs celebrated by many different cultural and ethnic groups. Halloween parties are not complete without lots of spooky decorations to set the mood. Here is a listing of Halloween traditions and symbols, for your enjoyment and use.

Did You Know? Halloween traditions around the world vary widely. Some countries celebrate it, while others do not. In countries that do not celebrate it, you might find Halloween celebrated among Americans on assignment there with their families, or in U.S. military bases and their families.

Halloween Traditions are all about frights and fun

All Hallow’s Eve – Another word for Halloween night. This term dates back centuries to old druid and Celtic cultures.

Bats – They own the dark, sinister side of Halloween. Also, bats are purported to suck the blood of victims. They can turn into vampires, and vice versa. More on bats.

Black Cat – a symbol of bad luck. Don’t let a black cat cross your path, or you will certainly come upon a string of bad luck. Black cats are associated with witches. Some witches are known to be able to transform into a black cat and back. More on Black Cats.

Coven – a group of witches. If they are good witches, you’re safe. However, if they are bad witches… Beware!

Dracula, Count Dracula – The evil lord of the castle in Transylvania.  When the moon is full,  Dracula turns into a Vampire. About Count Dracula

Frankenstein’s Monster – This monster was created in the laboratory of scientist Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein has a gentle and intelligent personality.  But, you wouldn’t know that. His scary, monstrous appearance causes everyone to run before getting a chance to know him. More on Frankenstein.

Full Moon – Vampires arise out of their coffins only at night, and only during a full moon. Watch out for full moons at any time of the year. For on nights with a full moon, a whole lot of hanky and panky goes on.

Garlic and Garlic Necklaces – ward off evil spirits. Vampires will not venture near the neck of a woman who wears a garlic necklace, no matter how beautiful she may be. However, this will cause normal, good-looking guys will then avoid her, too.  

Halloween traditions include many symbols, most notably pumpkins.

Ghosts – They can be good ghosts or bad ghosts. They can be friendly, or terrifying. Ghosts are poor souls who have died and are trapped between this life and the next. The “in-between” place is called the netherworld. More about ghosts

Ghoul –  a ghoul is a scary creature, similar to a ghost. But, a ghoul is simply scary and has little character. Unlike ghosts, a ghoul wasn’t previously a human being. And, unlike some ghosts, a ghoul is never friendly.

Goblins – similar to ghosts and ghouls.

Grim Reaper – is the fictional personification of death. He is dressed in a long, black robe with a hood. Sometimes you can see a skeletal face. The Grim Reaper carries a long-handled scythe (or sickle).  The Grim Reaper comes at death, to take bad people to Hades. Certainly, this should cause you to change your evil ways before it’s too late. More on the Grim Reaper.

Halloween Costumes – If you are going to a Halloween party or out to Trick or Treat, you need to dress up in a costume.  No costume, no treats. Halloween costumes can be friendly or scary, simple or elaborate. If you don’t have money for a costume, be creative and make your own. More on Halloween Costumes.

Haunted Hayrides – begin in early October and continue daily through the month. It’s not a hayride if it’s not haunted. This hugely popular attraction is a boon to farms that hose them. People will wait hours for their rides. They will venture out on a haunted hayride despite cold, rain, and even snow!

Rich in tradition, there are many customs to enjoy.

Haunted House – Ghosts inhabit the house. There are bats in the belfry. Evil spirits abound.  Above all, people should avoid haunted houses for good reason, except during Halloween. This time of year, people will shell out big bucks for the big scare.

Jack O’Lantern – also spelled Jack O Lantern. A pumpkin becomes a Jack O’Lantern when it is carved. It’s believed the Irish brought the tradition of pumpkin carving to America.

Lighted Pumpkins – Also lighted turnips and rutabagas. Scary faces are carved into pumpkins and a candle is lit inside. They keep the evil spirits away. Read about carving turnips, the original Celtic tradition

Mummy – In some ancient cultures, a person who dies is embalmed and wrapped in strips of white cloth. During Halloween, mummies come alive and walk upon the earth, scaring people. Chances are they won’t catch you. But, if they do, what could they do with you all wrapped up from head to foot!?  

Many Halloween traditions date back to ancient Celtic culture.

Netherworld – A place, or passageway, between heaven and earth. Often referred to as “a thin veil” between these two worlds. Certainly, do not be in a hurry to see the Netherworld.

Paranormal – a strange or unexplained occurrence or incident. This includes ghosts, witches, crop circles, UFOs, and other unexplained events. More on Paranormal Activities and Events.

Pumpkins – We are proud to say that pumpkins are a huge symbol of both Fall and Halloween. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They look great painted, decorated, carved, or uncarved.

Samhain – He is also referred to as the Lord of Darkness, or the Lord of Death. Depending upon who you talk to, Samhain can be any, or all of these.  More on Samhain

Scarecrows – Not everything about Halloween is scary. Scarecrows successfully cross over between fall decorations and Halloween. They are popular in decorating for both events and are much friendlier for young children. More on Scarecrows and How to Build a Scarecrow

Spiders – There’s something very creepy about spiders. And, don’t bump into a spider web. You just might stick.

Spooks – A ghoul or a ghost. They take pleasure in scaring people.

Trick or Treat – Children go out dressed up in their Halloween costumes. They knock on doors, and say “Trick or Treat”. If they do not get a treat, look out! Trick or Treat was believed to have started with Boy Scouts.

Almost as many Halloween traditions as Christmas

Warlocks – A male witch of Halloween. Note, that a warlock is not related to witches of the Wiccan religion. More on Warlocks

Werewolf or Wolfman– a man that transforms into a wolf. More on werewolves

Wiccans – A religious group that calls themselves Wiccans or witches. They will argue vehemently that the evil witches of Halloween do not exist.  Here’s an interesting theory about Wiccans: If you disagree with them, and they are correct, then they cannot by definition cast an evil spell on you, as they claim they are good witches. As for me, I will hedge my bets and not say anything nasty……just in case.

Witches – Did you know witches can be good, and witches can be bad? We definitely distinguish a difference between witches of Halloween and witches of the Wiccan religion. Wiccans are nice witches. They just happen to share the same name with Halloween witches. Halloween witches are definitely evil and can cast evil spells on people. More on Witches

Vampire – An evil creature who rises from their coffin during a full moon to find victims. They bite the necks of victims, sucking out their blood. As a matter of fact, the victims themselves become vampires. More on Vampires

Skeleton Bar

More Information:

Origin and History of Halloween – the roots of Halloween date back centuries, back to Celtic holiday of All Hollow’s Eve.

Pumpkin Nook’s Halloween Central– From how to carve pumpkins to pumpkins facts, myth and lore.

Halloween Party Recipes – For pumpkin carving parties, Halloween parties and the big night.

Party  Games – for fun, fun, fun

More on Pumpkin Carving – The “how to” along with pumpkin carving tools and kits.

Pumpkin Picking Tips – How to pick the perfect pumpkin- – in the patch, at the roadside stand, or at the store.

See our other recipes

Pumpkin Recipes – Indeed, over 140 recipes and still growing

Halloween Party Recipes – Put the icky, gross and gory into your party.

TGN’s Garden Recipes – You grow them all season. Now, you cook and bake your harvest.

Apple recipes – Let’s cook and bake with apples.

Holiday Recipes – All sort of recipes for all sorts of holidays.

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