Pumpkins, candy, costumes... it must be Halloween, right? While Halloween is a very festive and colorful annual tradition, many countries celebrate differently. It's interesting to examine how the rest of the world celebrates this unique holiday.
- Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, the eve or vigil before the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) which is observed on November 1.
- In the believed birthplace of Halloween, Ireland, bonfires are lit as they were in the days of the Celts and children dress up in costumes to spend the evening "trick-or-treating" in their neighborhoods. After the visiting, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At these parties, many games are played, including "snap-apple," in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree, and players attempt to take a bite out of the suspended apple. The Irish also eat "barnbrack", a type of fruitcake with a muslin-wrapped treat baked inside. It is said that whoever finds the treat, their future is revealed
- Canadians have been celebrating Halloween with the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1800s. Jack O'Lanterns are carved and the festivities include parties, trick-or-treating and the decorating of homes with pumpkins and corn stalks.
- The English made "punkies" from large beetroots, upon which they carved a design of their choice. Then, they would carry their "punkies" through the streets while singing the "Punkie Night Song" as they knocked on doors and asked for money. In recent years, the American "trick or treating" custom, together with the donning of costumes for going door-to-door, has become a relatively popular pastime among English children at Halloween, although many of the adults (particularly the older generations) have little idea as to why they are being asked for sweets and are usually ill-prepared to accommodate their small and hopeful callers.
- At the end of August / beginning of September, South Koreans celebrate "Chusok". While in costumes, people gather, play music and eat food.
- The Chinese celebrate the Teng Chieh (The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) festival, where food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed.
- In Japan, there are many loud festivals around the major cities. In addition, the Japanese celebrate the "Obon Festival", dedicated to the spirits of ancestors, and takes place during July or August.
- On November 1st, the Italians celebrate “The Souls Day” by eating traditional Italian food and partaking in traditional customs. A particular favorite is “Fave dei Morti”, which is a traditional cookie recipe that is offered as a ritual offering to the dead.
- In Austria, some people will leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before retiring on Halloween night. The reason for this is because it was once believed such items would welcome the dead souls back to earth.
- Halloween is a fairly new holiday for the Spaniards, but is rapidly growing in widespread popularity. Spain has two holidays simliar to Halloween: The Catholic feast of All Souls Day (“El Día de las Brujas” or "Day of the Witches") and “The day of the Pumpkins” celebrated in the Northwest region of Galicia, known as “Dia de los muertos” (Day of the death).
- “The Day of the Dead” is celebrated in the Czech Republic but called “Dušičky,” which many Czechs mark by visiting cemeteries and graves of departed loved ones
- In Greece, while Halloween is celebrated primarily by expatriates and tourists in hotels, the Greeks celebrate “The Apokrias,” which takes place in February. During the holiday, children dress up in costume and call upon their friends to see if they can guess their identities. “Treats” like cake and sweets are also handed out in and in large cities, Carnival-like parades are held along major streets.
- In Mexico and many Spanish speaking countries Halloween is known as “El Día de los Muertos". This holiday incorporates a three-day celebration that begins on October 31st and culminates in November 2nd. It’s the time of the year when families remember their dead and the continuity of life.
- In the USA, Halloween became a holiday around the 1800's (now the United States' second most popular holiday after Christmas for decorating). The commercialization of Halloween in the United States did not start until the 20th century. Typically, youngsters will dress up in various themed costumes and go "door to door", saying "Trick or Treat, asking for candy.
Like many holidays, Halloween is celebrated around the world by many people who celebrate in their own way. Wherever, and however, you choose to celebrate Halloween this year, please be safe and have fun.
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Ryan serves as Business Development Director at SimulTrans, currently focusing on new business activity from global headquarters in Mountain View, CA. He has been at SimulTrans for over 19 years and is one of our most senior and accomplished Account Managers.