Halloween Around The World
Did you know that Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween? There, they celebrate Halloween very similarly to the U.S., where kids dress up and go trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods. They do things a little bit differently though. One thing they do is play a game where cards are laid down on a table with sweets or coins underneath them and if a child selects a card, they will receive whatever is under the card. The Irish also eat a traditional Halloween food called “barnbrack,” which is a fruitcake with a fortune-telling treat inside of it. Across the globe, many countries view the holiday as celebrating lives lost and welcoming spirits back to earth. Here are how other countries celebrate Halloween:
- Austria: Here, some of the locals will leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp on the table before going to sleep on Halloween night. They believe that Halloween is a way to welcome dead souls back to earth.
- Belgium: In Belgium, black cats are believed to be unlucky, whether they cross your path or enter your home. Similar to Austria, the citizens here will light candles in memory of dead relatives.
- Canada: Scottish and Irish immigrants brought Halloween to Canada in the 1800s. Today, Canadians will celebrate the holiday by throwing parties, going trick-or-treating, or carving Jack O’Lanterns.
- China: Known as Teng Chieh, there are many traditions including food and water being placed in front of photographs of family members who have died while bonfires or lanterns are lit to guide the path of the spirits as they travel through earth on Halloween night. If someone died and the body was not found, they are referred to as Pretas and have a special ceremony where “boats of the law” are created from paper and then burned in the evening in order to free the spirits so they can ascend to heaven.
- Czech Republic: Here on Halloween night, a chair for each living person and each person that has passed, is placed by the fireplace.
- England: A tradition here was for children to make “punkies,” which are carvings out of large beets, and carry them through the streets singing the “Punkie Night Song.” While singing the song, the children knocked on doors and asked for money. Later, Halloween became known as Guy Fawkes Night. Locals would place turnip lanterns on their gateposts to protect their homes from spirits who roamed on Halloween night. Another custom was to toss objects into a fire to scare spirits, which resulted in fortune-telling. Most recently, however, the English celebrate the holiday similar to the U.S. and Ireland in that they dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating.
- France: Referred to as la fete d’Halloween, the tradition was brought to France by American tourists around 1996. The country celebrates the holiday differently than the U.S. in that they do trick-or-treating from store to store, not visiting any homes. Further, adults celebrate the holiday by dressing up and going to parties or bars with friends. Since the holiday is still fairly new and considered to be American, some are not sure whether this tradition will carry on in France.
- Germany: Here, locals put away their knives on Halloween night so they do not risk any harm to or from the returning spirits.
- Hong Kong: Known as “Yue Lan” or the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, locals believe that spirits roam the earth for 24 hours. During this time, they burn pictures, fruit, or money with the belief that these images reach the spirit world and bring comfort to the ghosts.
- Korea: Koreans recognize a holiday called “Chusok” in August where they pay respects to their ancestors by visiting their tombs and making offerings.
- Mexico and Latin America: celebrate the holiday similarly and refer to it as “El Dia de los Muertos” or days of the dead. It is a three-day celebration that honors that dead who are believed to return to their homes on Halloween, where an alter is created with offerings. On the last day of the festival, the family gathers at the gravesite to pay tribute to the deceased. There is also a parade through the streets in addition to candle lit ceremonies in church.
- Japan: Here, the holiday is celebrated as “Obon Festival” but sometimes there are similar festivals called “Matsuri” or
Obon Festival in Japan
“Urabon.” Locals use the holiday to celebrate the spirit of their ancestors. During the Obon Festival, lanterns are lit and set to float on rivers in addition to fires being lit to show ancestors where to find their families. Also, during this festival, the dead are believed to return to their birthplaces, where homeowners will clean the home and prepare food offerings. The holiday is celebrated in July or August and some may not take part in the traditions but are likely to attend the fun festivals.
- Sweden: refers to the holiday as “Alla Helgons Dag” and is celebrated from October 31 to November 6. On the eve of the holiday, locals typically have a vacation day or shortened work day.
As you can see, Halloween in various forms is celebrated across the globe. If you celebrate Halloween, we hope you have fun at your party or out trick-or-treating.