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Unique Halloween ideas for family fun

One of the best things about autumn is gathering together with friends and family to celebrate Halloween. Spooky shadows, hooting owls and pumpkin lanterns - we love the atmosphere here in the forest. There’s no better time to take a night-time walk through the woods, with our Forest Ranger telling tales of local ghosts, myths and legends.

Halloween isn't just a British festival - it's celebrated all around the world in various ways. We've looked at some unique Halloween ideas for you try with the family this October.

Create Mexican sugar skulls

Mexico is, of course, famous for celebrating the Día de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead". This is a three-day festival, beginning on 31 October, with the first day being more child-focused. Families dress up as their ancestors, and children decorate sugar skulls with flowers or make cakes and treats shaped like skeletons and coffins.

Make your own sugar skulls from meringue or sugar paste, and decorate them with colourful flowers and designs. You can give them as gifts to family, or use them as Halloween decorations.

Try candy corn

One country synonymous with Halloween celebrations is, of course, the USA. Much like here in the UK, Americans celebrate by carving pumpkins into lanterns and trick or treating in the evening. One of the treats most common at Halloween is candy corn - a sweet version of a dried corn kernel. You can buy some to try in the UK - but be warned, surprising numbers of Americans actually don't like it.

One of the most popular activities in the USA is, of course, trick or treating. Dress up in your favourite costume and knock on doors, asking for sweets. Be prepared to play a trick on anyone who asks for a trick instead, but remember, it's considered polite to knock only on doors where a pumpkin lantern has been lit, indicating that household wants to take part.

Pumpkin carving and fruity cake

The tradition of celebrating Halloween in Ireland started with the festival of Samhain, a pagan festival marking the beginning of the winter season. Children went door to door singing songs and offering prayers for the soul of the dead in return for food - usually a soul cake - a flattened piece of fruity bread.

Today children will eat a fruitcake that can be made at home, called barmbrack. Inside each cake is a surprise - a ring that means you'll marry soon, a piece of straw, symbolising a prosperous year or, more commonly, a coin for luck.

Traditional lanterns would have been carved from a vegetable such as a turnip or a swede. Luckily pumpkins are much softer and easier for children. Stay on a Halloween break at Forest Holidays and take part in our pumpkin carving workshops in the Forest Retreat - we know parents will be pleased to keep the mess out of the kitchen, and there will be prizes for the best lanterns.

Family fun and spooky games

While here in the UK we play apple bobbing - with players picking apples out of a bowl of water using only their teeth - in Ireland, they play snap-apple. The apple is hung from a door frame and each person must eat the apple without touching it. Irish parents will also arrange a treasure hunt for children to search for sweets.

Another fun game is to create a "feel box". Fill a cardboard box with slimy foods and foul smells, and children will have to guess what each item is by touch alone. Ew!

In the USA, they've found a use for the candy corn by playing a relay race. Kids must move scoops of the sweets from one bowl to another, but without using their hands.

One of our favourite games is also one of the easiest. Pair up into teams of two, with one chosen to be the Mummy. The other wraps them up in toilet roll as fast as they can - when the clock stops, see who is the best dressed Mummy.

After all the fun, bring back that spooky feeling with a family movie. Settle in for a cosy evening - and choose something scary if you dare!

Get into the spirit of Halloween this October at Forest Holidays. There will be pumpkin lantern carving, a Halloween quiz and night-time Forest Ranger adventures – do you dare go into the woods on Halloween night?