It’s that time of year again when fall is in the air, the leaves are starting to change color, and we begin to think about the holidays–beginning with Halloween. Although Halloween began in ancient days and did not originate in the United States, it continues to be the second biggest holiday in the country, exceeded only by Christmas in terms of decorations and sales. In the United States, Halloween usually brings to mind images of pumpkins and scary decorations, trick-or-treaters going door to door collecting a seemingly endless supply of candy, and people of all ages dressing up for costume parties. However, some may not know that many other countries also celebrate some form of Halloween. Although many of the Halloween traditions are similar, each country has its own unique way of celebrating this popular holiday.
Here are some interesting Halloween Traditions Around the World Ireland & Scotland – Samhain
Since Halloween is said to have started with the ancient Celts, it is only fitting that Ireland still likes to celebrate Halloween in a big way. Halloween began as a celebration at the end of summer called Samhain, or “All Hallowtide,” a time when the dead would come back to visit the earth. The ancient druids would dress up as spirits and devils to disguise themselves in case they encountered the dead. This is how the idea of dressing up and trick-or-treating came about. The Celts lit bonfires in memory of the dead and prayed that the sun would return to the earth after the winter months. Trick-or-treating and lighting bonfires are still practiced in Ireland today. One strictly Irish tradition is eating the Barnbrack cake, a fruitcake in which a ring, a coin, and a rag are hidden. The one who gets the rag has an uncertain financial future, whereas the coin is said to bring prosperity and the ring happiness and possibly love. The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face down on a table with candy or coins underneath them and they get the prize. The traditional meal served on Halloween is boiled potato, curly kale, and raw onions. Coins are wrapped in baking paper and put into the potatoes for the children to find. Ireland tour packages are affordable, making it one of the most popular places for first-time European travelers. Bonfires are still set in rural areas in bigger towns halloween is much like it is in the United States.
In Italy, the dead are honored on All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day, celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, respectively. These have traditionally been important holidays, but in recent years celebrating All Hallows Eve on October 31st has also become quite popular. Children’s costume parties are commonly held during the day, and special events for adults take place in the evening. In addition, many Italian cities have All Saint’s Eve walks–commonly referred to as urban trekking–to dungeons, castles, and crypts. Another exciting tradition during this time of year is a cake made in the shape of a bean, known as the bean of the dead. Before a family leaves for church services, this cake is placed on the table along with other food. Then, the doors are left open for the spirits to come in and have a feast. Browse Escorted Italy tours & vacations.
Spain/Mexico/Latin America – Día de los Muertos
In Spain, Mexico, and Latin America, where Catholicism is also prevalent, October 31st through November 2nd is a time period when the dead are honored, known as All Souls Day, a couple of days after Halloween. Halloween itself is known as El Dia de Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” Church services are held during this time, along with memorials and even parties and picnics at gravesites to remember loved ones who have died. Many people in Mexico make an altar in their home to honor a loved one who has passed. Photographs and possessions are put on the altar, along with scented candles, water, and flowers. It is believed that the scent of the candles will guide the spirit home. Bread in the shape of caskets, skulls, and crossbones is baked and eaten. In Spain, rather than an altar at home, they adorn the cemetery with food, flower, candles, and clothing. It is florists’ busiest day of the year, and most businesses are closed. Common foods are chestnuts, roasted sweet potato, almond cake, and a special pastry called Hueso de Santos (Saint Bones) made of egg, marzipan, and sugar syrup. Take advance of early booking deals on escorted Spain tours.
In England, children carve faces into large beets and call their creations “punkies.” This is their version of jack o’ lanterns. Some households will even put candles in them to turn their turnips into lanterns that they hang on their gates to protect them from spirits. Children will go from house to house singing the “Punkie Night Song” and asking for money. Recently, children have been wearing costumes and asking for candy instead of money. Unfortunately, not everyone has caught onto this new tradition, and some households are confused about what the kids are doing by getting all dressed up and asking for candy. Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th bonfires are lit all throughout England and Effigies are burned and fireworks.
Romania – Day of Dracula
Halloween in Romania is known as the Day of Dracula. Many visit the Gothic fairytale castle Bran, near Brasov in Transylvania. Some people believe it was Prince Vlad Tepe’s home, but others say the prince was locked in the castle against his will for several months. Tepes stands for “impaler,” and it was appropriate because he was known for punishing his victims by impaling them on stakes and putting them on display to frighten his enemies not to cross him. At Bran castle, they through a Halloween Monster Party & you can also take tours. To visit the birthplace of Dracula, go to the Medieval Citadel of Sighisoara. On Halloween, they have a huge party with an open bar, a 3-course meal, and dancing the night away. In the rest of the country, they celebrate with costume parties and story-telling & in some towns, actors play out scenes from Dracula movies. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and escape rooms that have Halloween events & parties as well. If you are up for it, try a traditional Romania shot…a shot of Romanian “water of fire” boiled with pepper. Tuica is also popular, which is an average of 40-55% alcohol, similar to moonshine made from plums. Plums ferment with a handful of yeast in large bins for six to eight weeks. The mash is then boiled and distilled into brass kettles with copper tubing, using traditional firewood or charcoal heat sources. Some versions of the drink include apples, pears, or cherries.
Although China may not be a place one usually associates with Halloween, this country, which is primarily Buddhist, also has its Halloween traditions. During the Halloween festival known as Teng Chieh, people put food and water next to photographs of deceased relatives. China also has bonfires to light the way so that spirits can return to the earth. Festival of the Hungry Ghosts is another tradition that involves attempting to placate the spirits of those who may have died of unnatural causes or were not given a proper burial. This involves offering food, gifts, and special services in Buddhist temples.
The French regard Halloween as an American holiday. However, over the past 20 years, it has gained popularity. Many adults and children dress up for Halloween, but the costumes can be graphic or scary. For the most part, no one-trick or treats. They celebrate the holiday by going to parties at a restaurant or a friend’s house. Some businesses will decorate their establishments with Halloween décor as well. Quite a few bakeries will make special desserts that are Halloween-themed.
Celebrating Halloween is rather new in Sweden, as it started around 1995. Children dress in evil-looking costumes and demand candy from their neighbors, or they will play a trick on them. Jack-o-lanterns are carved to drive out evil spirits. Halloween is often confused with All Hallow’s Eve or All Helgons Dag; both are celebrated around this time.
Austria: Pumpkin Festival (Kürbisfest im Retzer Land)
Around November 11 Austria celebrates Martini which includes costumes and a lantern procession. Then Austria has a Pumpkin Festival in Retzer Land called Kürbisfest im Retzer Land. It is a custom for some people in Austria that believe that if they leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp out, dead souls will be welcomed back to earth for that night.
Halloween is known as Yue Lan in Hong Kong, which translates to Festival Of The Hungry Ghosts. During this time, spirits are believed to be present on earth. In order to bring comfort to them, fires are lit, and money and fruit pictures are burned. These images are thought to reach the spirit world after they are burned and bring a sense of comfort to them. In addition, gifts and food are offered up to the spirits to pacify them and keep them from trying to do any harm.
Usually held the last Sunday in October over 4000 people gather in Kawasaki Japan there is the Kawasaki Halloween Parade which happens are Kawasaki Station and the La Cittadella shopping area. You must register in advance if you want to join the parade. Tokyo Disneyland has Halloween events also.
If you are a fan of superstitions, we have several other blog posts you may want to read, including Super Bowl Traditions and Superstitions, New Years Traditions and Superstitions, Christmas Eve Traditions Around the World, Eye Twitching Superstitions, and How the World Celebrates Thanksgiving.
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