Halloween Traditions Around the World
On the night of October 31st, people from a variety of countries and cultures around the world will celebrate Halloween. While the celebrations have an overall theme of light and fire, as well as other similarities in practice, countries have made the holiday their own in many ways.
Have you ever celebrated Halloween in another country? Here are some of the ways this spooky holiday is observed in other places:
Ireland:Ireland has a long, fascinating history with Halloween and is known as the birthplace of the celebration. The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, celebrated on October 31, began over 2,000 years ago and has grown to include bonfires, games and traditional foods. People originally disguised themselves to ward off evil spirits and left treats on their doorsteps to appease them. Fortunetelling also plays an important role in Irish Halloween celebrations.
Austria: In Austria, Halloween is traditionally a more somber holiday than in North America. Some people will leave bread, water and a lighted lamp out before going to bed on Halloween to welcome dead souls back to earth for a night. Several communities also celebrate pumpkin festivals.
China: Halloween is a Western festival and is largely ignored in China. The Chinese do, however, have festivals where they celebrate the spirits of family members who are no longer among the living. Teng Chieh is one of these. Buddhist monks recite sacred verses and make offerings of fruit. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members and lanterns are lit to light the spirits’ paths. In fact, these Chinese lantern festivals are well known all over the world.
France: For the French, Halloween is an American holiday. Until the late 1990s, in fact, it was largely unknown. It is gaining a bit of a foothold now, though, among young adults who like to dress up as classically frightening characters (witches, vampires, ghosts, etc.). Some people throw Halloween parties. But if you find yourself in France on Halloween night, you’ll likely find trick-or-treating to be a long walk more than anything else, as the practice is far from widespread.
Portugal: In Portugal, the eve of All Saints’ Day is observed by the clearing of graves and cemetery clean up, laying flowers and baking traditional sweets with cinnamon. Children do go door to door these days. Traditionally, they asked for cookies, breads and nuts, but these treats are being replaced more and more by candy. Other American traditions, such as costume parties and carving pumpkins are also spreading to Portugal.
Spain: Like in Mexico, the Spanish have also made Halloween their own, not only honoring the dead but also celebrating the living and the continuation of life with a three-day celebration from October 31 to November 2. The holiday’s commemoration starts at the cemetery, where people gather to lay flowers on their family graves. Bonfires are made and people gather to spend time together. Children trick-or-treat from door to door. In cities, flamboyant costume parties are often held. Families often spend time together baking traditional pastries.
Germany: Typical Halloween celebrations have not taken root in Germany. Trick or treating is not a popular custom, partly because just eleven days later is the German holiday of Saint Martinstag, for which German children traditionally go door to door to receive treats from their neighbors. October 31 is also Reformationstag, a religious holiday to celebrate Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the Catholic church in Wittenberg. But Halloween is creeping up in some parts of the country, with costume parties and dancing.
Italy: In Italy, Halloween celebrations also take form in costume parties, where most people opt for frightening attire. Movie theatres show horror films. More traditional celebrations occur the following day, All Saints’ Day, when many Italian families make bean-shaped cakes called Beans of the Dead.
In much of the Western world, after the scattered festivities of October 31st, the following day (All Saints’ Day) is much more popular and celebrated with particular cultural traditions.
Here at Prométour, we’d like to give a little shout-out to Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travellers!