Welcome to the Abilene Public Library’s Virtual Classroom.  This space will offer a new place for youth, teens, and adults to learn more about a variety of topics, with new content added regularly.

For each class, we'll share background information, educational videos, lesson plans, resources available for continued learning and more. Plus, we’ll offer a link to a test we’d appreciate if you completed to show what you learned!

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2020 will occur on Saturday, October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.


History of Halloween by National GeographicBet you didn't know: Halloween History by the History Channel

History of costumesMost popular costumes in your state

Halloween costumes are costumes worn on or around Halloween, a festival which falls on October 31. An early reference to wearing costumes at Halloween comes from Scotland in 1585, but they may pre-date this. There are many references to the custom during the 18th and 19th centuries in the Celtic countries of Scotland, Ireland, Mann and Wales. It has been suggested that the custom comes from the Celtic festivals of Samhain and Calan Gaeaf, or from the practise of "souling" during the Christian observance of Allhallowtide. Wearing costumes and mumming has long been associated with festivals at other times of the year, such as on Christmas.[1] Halloween costumes are traditionally based on frightening supernatural or folkloric beings.

History of giving treatsMost popular candy in your state

From at least the 16th century,[5] the festival included mumming and guising,[6] which involved people going house-to-house in costume (or in disguise), usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for foodIt has also been suggested that the wearing of Halloween costumes developed from the custom of souling, which was practised by Christians in parts of Western Europe from at least the 15th century.[10][11] At Allhallowtide, groups of poor people would go door-to-door, collecting soul cakes – either as representatives of the dead,[12] or in return for saying prayers for them.[13] One 19th century English writer said it "used to consist of parties of children, dressed up in fantastic costume, who went round to the farm houses and cottages, singing a song, and begging for cakes (spoken of as "Soal-cakes"), apples, money, or anything that the goodwives would give them".  This practice was mentioned by Shakespeare his play The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593).

  1. Resources
  2. Lesson Plans
  3. Test Your Knowledge

Arkins, D. C. (2004). Halloween merrymaking: An illustrated celebration of fun, food, and frolics from Halloweens past. Gretna, La: Pelican Pub. Co.

AT&T Intellectual Property. The most popular halloween costume in your state. AT&T website. Accessed 10/23/2020 https://www.attsavings.com/resources/entertainment/popular-halloween-costume-in-your-state/

Halloweencostumes.com Halloween costume tutorials. YouTube. Accessed 10/23/2020. https://www.youtube.com/c/halloweencostumesdotcom/videos

Halloween History. National Geographic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-VRAemIvbI Access date October 21, 2020. Original published date October 18, 2007. 

Halloween 2020 History.com Editors, HISTORY. https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween Access date ‎October‎ ‎1‎, ‎2020 A&E Television Networks. Last updated September 21, 2020. Original published date November 18, 2009.

Melendez, B., Schulz, C. M., Mendelson, L., Roman, P., Robbins, P., Shea, C., Dryer, S., ... Warner Home Video (Firm),. (2008). It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Mead, M. (2008). Halloween. New York: Time Home Entertainment.

O'Sullivan, J. (2003). Halloween: A grown-up's guide to creative costumes, devilish decor & fabulous festivities Halloween: A grown-up's guide to creative costumes, devilish decor & fabulous festivities. New York: Lark Books.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, September 30). Halloween costume. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:02, October 23, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Halloween_costume&oldid=981093307

Library resources to explore Halloween

Halloween merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past

Recipes, games, costumes, party ideas, and decorations, along with excerpts from vintage periodicals, show the gaiety that epitomized historic Halloween celebrations.
Halloween merrymaking
Halloween Tricks and Treats

A stylish celebration of Halloween for the entire family presents a colorful array of delicious foods, spooky decorations, and entertaining suggestions that includes easy-to-follow instructions for pumpkin treat holders, personalized candy boxes, black cat cupcakes, black duct tape stencils, and other creative projects.
Halloween tricks and treats

Matthew Mead's Halloween Spooktacular

Frightfully simple ideas for creepy decorations, terrifying sweets and unique costumes will thrill trick-or-treaters of all ages. Holiday style pro Matthew Mead offers endlessly inventive haunted home makeovers, quick-and-easy ways to reinvent store-bought cookies and candy, awesome themed parties, and more to make, eat, and enjoy in the weeks before, and throughout all hallows' eve.

Halloween spooktacular Opens in new window
Halloween: A grown-up's guide to creative costumes, devilish decor & fabulous festivities

Finally, here's a Halloween book that's definitely for adults. It's brimming with practical and inventive ideas for parties, decorations, and costumes, and with an amazingly atmospheric design that's a luscious treat for grown-up eyes. Take the dread out of a costume party with creative and playful ways to dress for success on All Hallow's Eve; there are even actual costume elements to use, from wings and tails to masks and hats. You'll find ways to repurpose items right out of your own closet or benefit from a quick trip to the thrift shop. Unique make-up tips for a ghoulishly great appearance will complete the effect. An elegant "Pumpkin Primer" supplies projects to enhance the holiday spirit, including menacing hex dolls and simple, spooky candlescapes. Finally, a selection of theme party ideas, from Day o' the Dead to a Masked Ball, will make for a Happy Halloween. After all: why should kids have all the fun?
Halloween grownups guide Opens in new window

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

It’s Halloween night, and the Peanuts gang is busy dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and bobbing for apples. Meanwhile, Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin to rise from the pumpkin patch and bring toys to all the children of the world.

Great pumpkin