Halloween marks the first major holiday of the Fall season with all things pumpkin, fabulous costumes, and sweet treats galore! While this holiday is popular in North America, the traditions of this spooky day aren’t as widely celebrated across the globe. People from countries all around the world have their own Halloween equivalent that is just as scary as ours!
Here is a little Halloween lesson about how the rest of the world celebrates their version of this holiday:
Ireland: The Origins of Halloween
What are the origins of this ghostly holiday? Halloween originated in Celtic Ireland’s Samhain festival, a fire festival that was celebrated on October 31st through November 1st. Flames from an old fire were extinguished, only to be re-lit, which signified the relinquishing of the past to start anew. Today, the Irish celebrate Halloween much like we do in the States with spooky costumes and trick-or-treating!
England & the United Kingdom: Guy Fawkes Day
Halloween in England, and the rest of the United Kingdom, is celebrated in a similar fashion to that of the United States. On October 31st, people of all ages indulge in all things orange and black, pumpkin, scary, and sweet! England shares the origins of Halloween with Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Dating back to the time of pagan festivals, it is believed that spirits of the dead would come alive on this day and in order to avoid getting on the spirits’ bad side, people would be in “fancy dress,” or costumes as Americans say.
Halloween is a growing holiday in Britain, some might say that it is starting to overtake England’s own “Guy Fawkes Day,” which is celebrated on November 5th. People of England commemorate this historical day when the Gunpowder Plot failed – an attempt to blow up the House of Parliament, particularly King James, by explosives expert, Guy Fawkes. This day is often celebrated with fireworks displays and bonfires.
Popular foods to have at these bonfire include slow cooker meals (check out some great ones here), hot drinks, and chocolatey desserts (check out our Killer Brownies in the Bakery section – a delicious and indulgent treat!).
Latin America & Spain: Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated all throughout Latin America and Spain as well as other Catholic countries around the world. Also known as All Souls Day or All Saints Day, special masses take place on November 1st and 2nd that include special holiday traditions. It is believed that the spirits of children come alive for 24 hours at midnight on October 31st, a time when these spirits can reunite with their loved ones. People traditionally decorate an altar in their home, dedicated to these souls, with colorful adornments of flowers, sugar candy skulls, sweets, various foods, drinks, and other trinkets.
China: Teng Chieh
Teng Chieh, also known as the “Ghost Festival,” is a celebration and remembrance of family members who have passed. Tradition entails the placement of food and water by photographs of those family members as well as the lighting of paper lanterns, which are then set burning as a bonfire while floating across the water. Buddhist and Taoist priest recite chants, perform rituals, and lead prayer during the lighting ceremony. The purpose of this tradition is to honor the dead as well as help the recently departed spirits who are “stuck” in Pretas move beyond the living. Pretas are spirits who died without ever having been buried and are believed to be dangerous to the living if not helped to move onto heaven.
Japan: O-Bon Festival
Japan’s “Halloween” celebration is known as the O-Bon Festival. Like many other Halloween-like celebrations from around the world, the Japanese celebrate the memory of the dead family members. This holiday is generally celebrated at different times for different people. Some celebrate on July 13-15 while others choose to celebrate on August 13-15. On the first day, people decorate the grave sites of dead family members with various fruit, cakes, and lanterns and on the second day, tamadana, or alters, are created and decorated in the home. Finally, on the third day, people partake in the bon-odori, which is a slow dance consisting of concentric circular movements. This dance is typically performed as a community (check out a video of the dance here. To end the night, lanterns are lit and set to float across the water, which symbolizes the spirits moving back to the “other shore.”
Sweden: Alla helgons dag
Aside from the growing popularity in the United Kingdom, Halloween isn’t widely celebrated throughout much of Europe. If there is anything Halloween-like about Sweden, it is generally derived from our own holiday rituals and indulgences. American Halloween traditions like trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving are near to non-existent. Though, the Swedish people do enjoy the costume party and sweets aspects of this fun holiday.
Their Halloween equivalent is Alla helgons dag. Also known as All Saints Day, is celebrated on the first Saturday in November in Sweden. It is a day to remember family and friends who have passed away. Inspired by Catholic customs, the most common Alla helgons dag tradition is to light candles and place them at the graves of those loved ones.
With so many different Halloween and Halloween-like celebrations around the world, I’m sure no matter where you are, you’ll be able to find a celebration to partake in.
How are you celebrating Halloween? Let us know in the comments below!
Wherever you are in the world, have a happy and safe Halloween!