Halloween Traditions Around the World
Halloween is upon us! ‘Tis the season to dress up in your most outrageous costume, tell ghost stories, and eat candy until the first hours of November come creeping in. Here is how Halloween and similar holidays are celebrated around the world!
Samhain – Ireland & Scotland
Ireland’s origins stem from ancient Celtic and Pagan rituals, including a festival known as Samhain, or “end of the light half of the year.” Today, Ireland and Scotland celebrate Halloween with bonfires, games, and traditional foods, including fruitcake containing coins, buttons, and rings for fortunetelling – rings represent marriage, while coins depict wealth in the upcoming year. With these traditions, Ireland is considered the “birthplace of modern Halloween.”
Día de los Muertos – Mexico
Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, Mexico and parts of Latin America celebrate Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, as a way of honoring those who have passed away. The belief is that the Gates of Heaven open at midnight on October 31st, allowing the souls of children to return to earth to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. On November 2nd, the souls of adults come to join the festivities.
The holiday is celebrated with in-home alters of food such as fruit and a special bread called pan de muerto (bread of the dead), among other things, which are left as offerings for weary ghosts. For the souls of children, toys and candy are left, while cigarettes and shots of mezcal are left for the adults.
People from all around the world travel to Transylvania, Romania to celebrate Halloween at Bran Castle, the suspected home of Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes. Though it’s never been proven Vlad has ever visited the site, there are a number of guides and travel packages in Romania offering tours and parties at Count Dracula’s castle for Halloween.
For the past 21 years, nearly 4000 Halloween enthusiasts from around the world gather in Kawasaki, Japan at the end of October. Here the Kawasaki Halloween Parade is hosted, the biggest parade of its kind in Japan. Because of strict guidelines, you have to apply for entry two months before the parade begins!
This festival marks the return of family and friends that have passed away back to the living. The holiday lasts up to six months, celebrated with feasts, music, and masks before the dead return to the spirit world. Though an important ritual, the festival only happens once every two years, which is when the spirits are believed to return to earth.
Pangangaluluwa is a tradition in the Philippines where children, often in costumes, go door to door to sing and ask for prayers for those stuck in purgatory. Though the rituals have increasingly been supplanted by trick-or-treating, some towns are working to revive Pangangaluluwa as a way of keeping the tradition alive, and as a local fundraiser.
These are only a handful of the Halloween-type celebrations held around the world! Many countries have their own rituals and meanings that accompany this time of year.
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