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Halloween Traditions Worldwide

Posted in American Culture by Katherine Zejavac on 25 Oct 2013

Newsflash: Halloween isn’t celebrated everywhere. So just what IS everybody doing this time of year if not eating tons of candy from trick or treating, carving pumpkins and dressing up in costume?

Ireland: Birthplace of Halloween

Halloween was invented by Celts in Ireland/Scotland, and it was much scarier back then. Farmers believed that ancient spirits could claw their way into reality on October 31, so they had to burn bones and stuff to welcome the good ghosts and cast off the bad ones.

The Derry Halloween festival is certainly the biggest attraction of its kind in Ireland north or south. They have a colorful fancy dress parade through the city center followed by a beautiful fireworks display. The streets are crowded and the pubs are filled with young people dressed as ghosts and witches.

Mexico: Dia de Los Muertos ( Day of the Dead)

This is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. People create altars to allure their deceased relatives spirits to return to them. The alters are decorated with flowers, sugar skulls, mementos and the deceased favorite foods in the form of a feast. Visiting the cemetery is a popular tradition. At the cemetery, the tomb or burial plot is decorated and the visit is spent in a picnic environment. The air is filled with music from Mariachi bands while the scent of a wide variety of foods wafts through the air. Fireworks are also common

Japan : The Obon Festival

The Obon Festival is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, Obon dances (bon od ori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.


To not risk harm to, or from the returning spirits, in Germany, people put away their knives on Halloween night.

Austria: St. Martin's Day

Celebrated in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands on November 11th, is similar to Halloween in that children go door to door with self-made paper lanterns, singing songs about the generosity of St. Martin, the patron saint of soldiers. The children are rewarded for their songs with candy and money.

United States: Halloween ( Trick or Treat!)

Halloween is usually celebrated amongst family, friends and, sometimes, co-workers. However, some areas hold large community events. Parties and other events may be planned on October 31 or in the weekends before and after this date. Adults may celebrate by watching horror films, holding costume parties or creating haunted houses or graveyards. Many children dress up in fancy costumes and visit other homes in the neighborhood. At each house, they demand sweets, snacks or a small gift. If they do not get this, they threaten to do some harm to the inhabitants of the house. This is known as playing 'trick-or-treat' and is supposed to happen in a friendly spirit, with no nasty or mean tricks being carried out. However, if your children take part, it is important to accompany them and to check their 'treats' to make sure they are safe to eat or play with.

Some families carve lanterns with 'scary' faces out of pumpkins or other vegetables or decorate their homes and gardens in Halloween style. These were traditionally intended to ward off evil spirits. If you are at home on Halloween, it is a good idea to have a bowl of small presents or sweets to offer to anyone who knocks on your door. This will help you to please the little spirits in your neighborhood!