Reading activity: www.kids.nationalgeographic.com/kid
Now that you have read the Thanksgiving Story , go on with these exercises about it: http://isabelperez.com/Thanksgiving1.htm
Pre-Christian Europeans held four major pagan festivals each year, including one on 31st October - Samhain. In a world dominated by the seasons it marked the end of the agricultural year and the onset of winter.
It was believed that on that night the barriers between our world and the spirit world were at their weakest. Weak enough, in fact, to allow the souls of the dead to return to earth in search of the warmth and light of their former lives.
Bonfires were lit at Samhain to impart heat and strength to the sun for the coming winter, whilst keeping away any mischevious spirits who might otherwise have delighted in causing fright!
Of course it was also an excuse for a big party.
In England, turnips were hollowed out and made into lanterns with faces - intended to scare away any troublemakers from the spirit world.
This tradition crossed the Atlantic to North America, where Pumpkins were used as lanterns, intended to guide the spirits to a place where a portion of the festival meal would be left for them. The early Christian church soon realised that since the pagan festivals were enjoyed so much by the majority they would not be abolished easily.
Instead, they were adopted into the Christian calendar, usually with some adaptation. Samhain was officially recognised by Pope John 14th in 1006, as All Hallows Eve, the night before All Souls Day (November 1st - already a Christian festival).
The pagan elements of the festival received bad press from the Church, who believed Samhain to be nothing more than an excuse for witches to make trouble. It was 'played down' and eventually reduced to an evening of pranks when children would dress up and play games. Over time the name was shortened to Halloween.
In 1604 Guy Fawkes may have failed in his plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but he unwittingly provided an excuse to move the bonfire festival from 31st October to 5th November, at the same time disguising the pagan connection.
Pagan religions have enjoyed a revival in recent years and the old fire festival of Samhain is still practiced in its pre-Halloween form by pagan groups around the world, many of whom see it as their New Year's Eve.
Halloween has become very popular in America, where children dress in ghoulish costumes and go out to 'trick or treat', playing tricks on their neighbours unless they are given a treat, usually of sweets.