Halloween Around the World

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Every October 31 countries across the globe celebrate what we now know and call “Halloween.” The holiday began in Europe sometime in the 17th century as a Christian celebration of remembrance for the dead and hallowed saints, often called All Souls’ Day or All Saints’ Day. As Europeans moved and settled around the world in later centuries, they shared Halloween practices with others and communities developed their own traditions as the years went by. Here’s a look at how other countries celebrate:


Trick-or-treating originated in the land of scones and tea, according to the book Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. English children went door-to-door singing songs and saying prayers for the dead, and in return received money and soul cakes (sweet bread with cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins). While the British now celebrate Halloween in much the same way as we do in the U.S., in the past, dead souls were thought to visit their relatives at midnight. People lit candles and poured wine to help the dead find their old homes, and to refresh them for their journey back.


According to a BBC News report, Halloween began in Scotland as a harvest festival celebrating the end of the summer season. Some of the traditional games like “dooking” (or bobbing for apples as we call it in the States) are still played today. People also disguise themselves in costumes and masquerades, then go door-to-door seeking treats to ward off bad spirits.


Similar to other countries, Irish adults and children dress up as creatures from the underworld such as zombies, ghosts and witches; play games like bobbing for apples, peanuts and coins; and watch firework displays. Besides trick-or-treating, they also eat colcannon, a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale, according to www.startpage.ie. Small coins are often concealed inside for children to find as a surprise.


Halloween has grown in popularity in the eastern part of the world, including China. Bars decorate for the occasion, and Hong Kong Disneyland hosts Disney Haunted Halloween — an annual celebration with local celebrities, a light show, a masquerade ball and multiple Halloween-themed Disney shows — that attracts thousands of guests every year.


Children trick-or-treat and sing songs about purgatory and give alms for the deceased in exchange for food and rice cakes according to a CNN iReport. At night trinkets and small items will mysteriously disappear only to be found at odd places as if spirits had moved them overnight.


The spirit of bloodthirsty, Transylvanian vampire Count Dracula is celebrated in Romania during Halloween. Besides actors recreating witch trials and parties, Romanians light candles and place them at cemeteries and shrines to honor their deceased
loved ones according to mysteriousjourneys.com.

United States

The Halloween we know today has grown to include activities like costume parties, haunted houses, pumpkin carving and horror movies in addition to traditional events like trick-or-treating. Halloween continues to be one of the most celebrated holidays in the U.S., and its popularity has inspired huge city-wide celebrations. Some of note include those in Salem, Mass. (of witch hunt fame), and in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter.


Megan Plummer is a senior majoring in communication with cognates in political science, public relations and professional writing. Her love for magazines started with “Entertainment Weekly” in middle school and hasn’t slowed down since. Megan is a Vampire Weekend fan and dedicated NPR listener with a weakness for ‘60s love songs.