Halloween! Some people think of this festival as a time of pumpkins, costumes and sugary treats. But did you know there are many different ways to celebrate Halloween around the world? Let’s travel around the globe and discover alternative Halloween activities for the classroom that you can do with your students.
Halloween activities – international cultural celebrations
Day of the Dead – Mexico
In Mexico, people celebrate the Day of the Dead in early November (although the celebrations sometimes include the last days of October as well). It’s a time to remember and respect family and friends who have passed away. UNESCO recognises the importance of the Dia de los Muertos by having the holiday on its list of important cultural events (or list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity).
During this celebration, people get dressed up, and there are bright and colourful decorations everywhere. There are processions through the streets and ofrendas (or offerings) made to the dead.
Activity idea: Ask students to make their own Day of the Dead decorations. They then tell a story about them to the class.
Samhain pagan festival – UK
A long time ago, people believed that during Samhain, spirits of the dead visited the earth. Today, in places like Glastonbury in the UK, people wear special costumes for this festival. They dance, take walks in nature, and honour their ancestors.
Activity idea: Let your students design their own costumes for the festival. They can draw them or create them out of classroom materials or recycled resources. Then, have a fun class parade or fashion show!
Salem witch trials – USA
Salem, in the USA, hosts a month-long recognition of the historic witch trials. This includes a market, a parade and many witch-based city tours. People can also visit museums to learn more about the relationship between the city and its witchy history.
Activity Idea: Have the class organise a virtual tour of the scary history of their own city or a city they know. Alternatively, choose a city together and have groups create a tour to find out more about its history. You could even choose Salem!
Halloween activities – food and drink
Barmbrack – Ireland
In Ireland, one way to celebrate Halloween is to eat a cake called Barmbrack (or Brack). Brack is a traditional Irish fruit cake with lots of different dried fruit inside. During the Halloween season, there’s usually a special treat inside the cake. These are treats such as a ring, a stick, a coin or a piece of cloth. If you find it, it tells your future!
Activity idea: Write fortunes on small pieces of paper. Put them inside snacks or balloons. On Halloween, have students find their fortunes.
Seleenwoche, or All Souls’ Week – Austria
In Austria, people have a special Halloween tradition. Before they go to bed, they put bread, water and a lamp on a table. They believe it welcomes the souls of the dead.
Activity idea: Have students imagine they were part of the Seleenwoche celebrations. Have them choose what to put on their tables and talk about why they made those choices.
Dookin’ for apples – Scotland
In Scotland, there’s a fun game called dookin’ for apples. Apples float in water and people try to grab them using their mouth or a fork.
Activity idea: Have a class competition to see who can get the most apples, or have students come up with their own version of the game. For example, hanging apples from strings. This is definitely a fun way to celebrate Halloween!
Whatever activities for Halloween you decide to do with your students this year, remember that it’s a good opportunity to introduce traditions and cultures from around the world. Why not ask your students whether they have any ways to celebrate Halloween in their own country or culture?
Do you know of any other fun classroom Halloween activities? Share them below!