Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: Things that go bump in the night!


As you may or may not know, Monday 31st October is Halloween and it’s a night that will be celebrated across the English speaking world with much enthusiasm. I’ve noticed that it’s definitely a growing trend here in Germany too, but do you know where the different Halloween customs come from?

Most people believe that it’s an American tradition which has been imported to Europe but Halloween is actually Celtic. It originates from the ancient celebrations of the Celtic New Year, known in Gaelic as Samhain (pronounced sow’inn). The end of summer and the beginning of winter was thought of as the turn of the year when the last harvest took place, and fires were extinguished and relit ready for the long dark days of winter. The Pagans thought this was a magical time when the boundaries between this world and the next dissolved allowing the dead to return to our world, but also a time for mischief when pranks would be played and roles reversed.

Pagan Celts would leave gifts for the spirits they believed roamed the Earth at this time and it was customary for people to go round to their neighbours asking for donations for the New Year feasts. These are likely to be the origins for the tradition of  “trick or treat” which is especially popular in the US.

Celts taking part in the celebrations disguised themselves to confuse the spirits who they believed were looking for a new body to live in at this time of year, and this appears to be the root of our love of costumes for Halloween. It’s certainly the only time of year that I dress up in costume!

When the Roman Empire conquered most of the Celtic regions, they incorporated two of their own festivals into these celebrations. First, a day where they commemorated the passing of the dead and second, a time to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. An apple was the symbol for Pomona and this might explain the tradition of bobbing for apples – whoever first bit into the apple, would be married first the next year.

In the 8th century AD the Christian church was trying to establish its own power over the people and trying to turn the people against the Pagan way of life and so, it introduced two celebrations of their own at this particular time on the calendar. Thus 31st October became All Hallows’ Eve (or Hallowe’en) while 1st November became All Hallows’ Day, All Saints’ Day or All Souls’ Day.

And the pumpkin?  Well, this really does come from the US. Irish emigrants to the US in the 19th century took the Halloween tradition with them along with their turnip lanterns. However, they soon discovered that the pumpkin made much better, larger and brighter lanterns and therefore, the activity of carving pumpkins was introduced into the Halloween tradition.

Now, what will your costume be this year?


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.