Worldwide Halloween Traditions
In the United States, Halloween is a time of candy, trick-or-treating and costumes. But what do other countries do on October 31st? Does everyone celebrate Halloween? What are their traditions like?
In the United States, Halloween is a time of candy, trick-or-treating, more Halloween treats and costumes. But what do other countries do on October 31st? Does everyone celebrate Halloween? What are their traditions like?
Ireland is where it all started. Halloween as a pagan holiday started with the Celts. Today, spooky stories that are part lore and part fiction are told to children. The Irish carve beets and turnips in an attempt to scare away the spirits of the dead. They also build one large community bonfire to scare off the dead. Smaller communities have their own bonfires. People also put a glowing stake of fire outside their homes to ward off any harm that might come to them from evil spirits.
In England, people celebrate Halloween, but they do not trick or treat. Instead, they celebrate by sitting around the hearth eating nuts and apples. The festival has come to be known as Nutcracker Night or Snap Apple Night. Children go around “Soulcaking” where they visit neighboring houses and collect money for the poor. They are usually given small cakes. The cakes differ from region to region.
It is hard to believe that the first year Halloween was celebrated in France was in 1982. It still is not an official holiday but companies like Coca Cola and McDonalds have been instrumental in marketing it to the French people. The new generation of French children celebrate much like Americans now and enjoy sweet treats.
In Spain, Halloween celebrations last three days. The first day is October 31st. November 1st is celebrated as All Saints Day and November 2nd is All Souls Day. The whole festival is called “El Dia de los Muertos” and is less a celebration of death and evil spirits and is more a celebration of life. Festivals and parades are held all over Spain. Locals drink a brew called quemadas which they set on fire. It’s meant to cleanse the spirits of the living and to burn bad luck. Latin American countries also celebrate the holiday in much the same way.
The Chinese celebrate Halloween by putting out food and water in front of photos of their dead relatives. This is thought to get them to heaven. It’s not thought of as a frightening holiday designed to spook and scare each other.
However, it also seems that modern day citizens take part in the Halloween festivities with friends much like the traditions from many other countries.
Where We Are Today
Halloween is becoming more and more accepted as a recognized holiday around the world. What was once contained to only Ireland as a pagan ritual and opposed by the Catholic church has now become a world-wide celebration. It no longer really holds the same significance that it used to. School children enjoy dressing in costumes and getting treats or even Halloween candy baskets, but the superstitions that originally linked the holiday to the dead and evil spirits is all but gone. Now happy kitties and silly looking pumpkins decorate the store windows at Halloween and babies dress up as Good Witches.
The tables have certainly turned on this once frightening holiday. Now it’s more of an excuse to eat candy or Halloween cookies and gather with friends while donning an alternate persona in costume. It’s less about the harvest and warding off of evil.