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Celebrating Halloween–Montessori Style

NAMC montessori halloween activities history pumpkinsThe observance of Halloween originates back to the ancient Celtic New Year’s festival, celebrated on November 1, which marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of a cold, dark winter. The Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the worlds between the living and the dead were blurred and that ghosts returned to earth on this night to cause trouble and damage crops. Druid priests built huge bonfires where people gathered to burn crops and offer animal sacrifices to the ancient deities. During the celebrations, the Celts usually wore costumes made from the skins and head of animals.

During the 400 years that the Romans ruled ancient Celtic lands, they incorporated Samhain into their two fall festivals: Feralia and Pomona. Feralia was the feast held to commemorate the passing of the dead, while Pomona was the goddess of fruit and trees. Pomona’s symbol was the apple, thus providing a tie to “bobbing for apples” as well as caramel and candy apple treats to modern Halloween.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 as All Saints Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely thought that this was in an attempt to replace the Celtic celebration with a church-sanctioned holiday. Later, in 1000 A.D., the church proclaimed November 2 as All Souls Day, a day to honor the dead. This was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with bonfires and dressing up in costumes such as angels, devils, and saints.

Today, in the United States, Halloween is celebrated by children dressing up in whimsical (or sometimes scary) costumes, going door-to-door crying out “Trick-or-Treat” as their neighbors hand out candy.  While many Montessori schools are conflicted about celebrating Halloween due to the ever increasing predominance of violent costumes, (PLEASE REMEMBER:  WE HAVE A NON-SCARY, NON-VIOLENT POLICY FOR COSTUMES AT THE SCHOOL PARADE AND PARTY.) there are still many ways to celebrate Halloween and the fall harvest.  Some examples, that we may use in school or you can use in your home:

  • Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF. Started in 1950 by a Philadelphia youth group, this has now evolved into a nationwide effort to support UNICEF. The UNICEF fundraising kit is for grades K-6 and children will feel empowered as they help children around the world. (UNICEF’s mission is to “provide special protection for the most disadvantaged children: victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation, and those with disabilities”.)
  • Study the lifecycle of pumpkins. We will do this one at the school.   You can also find many beautiful matching card and other activities for this online, and they are free!
  • Visit a local farm, orchard, or pumpkin patch. We will also do this one at school (field trip to Paulus’ Orchard on October 25th).  Look for ones that have apples or pumpkins to pick and offer samples of apple cider for the children to enjoy. Hayrides are also a great option.
  • Be creative with costumes.  Some contemporary costumes can be scary and violent. Rather than banning costumes at our school, WE ENFORCE A NON-SCARY, NON-VIOLENT POLICY FOR COSTUMES AT THE SCHOOL PARADE AND PARTY.  Along this line, ideas for costumes may include storybook characters or historical characters.  We play a “guessing game” at the parade/party at school where each child will have a chance to “present” their costume.
  • And finally, a popular sugar-free snack can be made by roasting pumpkin seeds

.Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Separate the seeds of one pumpkin from the flesh and ‘strings’
  • In a large bowl of water, wash them well, rubbing them between your hands.
  • Spread on paper towels to dry
  • Preheat oven to 325F
  • Spread dry seeds on a cookie sheet and lightly brush them with 4 Tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • Sprinkle with a mixture of 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of allspice
  • Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown
  • Let cool before eating

Enjoy the holiday!

Susan Curley Owner and Directress