Holiday Vocabulary: Halloween

With the holiday season once again upon us, we’re going to revisit the meanings of some important end-of-year cultural and religious holidays observed in the United States.

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A holiday is a special day of celebration or a day when most people do not have to work. In American English, the holiday season or the holidays refer to the time from November until the beginning of January during which many holidays are celebrated. Wishing someone a “happy holidays” is a polite and inclusive way of expressing seasonal greetings regardless of that person’s religious or cultural beliefs.


Halloween is a public holiday in America that, even more than Christmas, is celebrated by many as a secular (non-religious) holiday despite its religious roots. Halloween falls on October 31st every year, during which children (and some teens) dress in costumes and go door to door trick-or-treating.


Children and teens often wear costumes and go door to door in hopes of receiving candy. The phrase “trick-or-treat” used to mean that these costumed visitors were demanding candy (a treat) or else they may prank (or play a trick) on the homeowner. While usually an empty threat, some may throw eggs or toilet paper at your house, so ignore this tradition at your own risk!


As decoration for Halloween, Americans cut open the top of a pumpkin, hollow out the inside, then carve faces or other shapes into the rind (exterior) of the pumpkin. A small candle or electric light is placed inside and the top replaced. The result is a spooky and festive lantern great for decoration! There are even competitions at some festivals and schools to celebrate the creativity of pumpkin carvers.

Halloween Around the World

The days surrounding Halloween are holidays in other religions and cultures. November 1st is All Saints’ Day in the Catholic Faith, and in Mexico, both November 1st and 2nd are celebrated as Día de los Muertos. In the Philippines, trick-or-treating has begun to replace the Pangangaluluwâ tradition. As a secular holiday, Halloween has increased in popularity around the world, including in Germany and Hong Kong.