Horror stories, pumpkins, witches, an ABSURD amount of sweets, Alice Cooper… what’s not to like about Halloween traditions?!
But where does Halloween actually come from?
Halloween is a festival that combines history, tradition and popular culture. To give you a bit of background, the name “Halloween” comes from ‘All Hallow’s Evening’. It originated in the Celtic areas of Britain before being popularised by the USA. Nowadays, many countries around the world celebrate it in their own way.
What are some popular American Halloween traditions?
Kids (and adults!) dress up
It is said that people wore costumes to disguise themselves so that the souls seeking revenge wouldn’t be able to recognise them. Today’s favourite costumes derive from gothic imagery and literature, classic monsters, horror and sci-fi films and even some supernatural creatures like the Kardashians!
Children go trick or treating
Trick or treating is when children dress up and go knocking on people’s doors asking the question “Trick or treat?”. You can either give them a Halloween treat, or they’ll play a trick on you!
People carve pumpkins
Traditionally, jack-o’-lanterns were carved from pumpkins and turnips to scare off evil spirits.
But these days, people just do this for fun – and bake delicious pumpkin-based cakes and Halloween treats too!
And how do different countries celebrate Halloween?
There’s actually a festival called Fiesta Dalis Muars. It falls on 31st October, when the sun sets behind the mountains surrounding Ampezzo.
In Sicily, people hide cheese graters on the night of 1 November because in the past, it was said that the dead would come and grate off the feet of those who misbehaved! Like in other countries, in Italy children get sweets on Halloween. Some even have creepy names like ossu de mottu (bone of the dead)!
Protective over their traditions, Spain tends not to celebrate Halloween, and sees Halloween traditions as an ‘American thing’. Young people may go to Halloween parties hosted by clubs and school kids in bigger cities may go trick or treating, but the event isn’t widely celebrated by all.
Horror marathons are also shown on tv around this time, but typically All Saints’ Day is a much bigger deal on 1 November. This is taken as a bank holiday and people will visit the cemetery to honour the dead.
Mexico, on the other hand, is very big on Halloween and all of the traditions are embraced – the pumpkins, the spooky decorations, the dressing up.
The only thing that isn’t a big thing is trick or treating. While children living in safer neighbourhoods may be knocking door to door, generally, it’s not a good idea for children to be roaming the streets for fear of kidnapping.
Also celebrated around that time is El Día de Muertos. Families get together to remember their loved ones who have passed. They light candles and place decorations around the picture of their loved one and cook their favourite foods to celebrate their life.
Curious? We recommend watching the Disney movie Coco to learn more about this day – the film does a great job of accurately representing the culture!
The French don’t tend to observe Halloween traditions – they’re arguably overshadowed by Toussaint – All Saints’ Day – where people traditionally visit the cemetery on 1 November.
When it comes to fun for the children, some will go trick or treating, but kids visiting France, beware: not all households will have sweets ready to give out, so trick or treat at your own risk!
Like the UK, Germany have started to embrace more Halloween traditions in recent years. The young ‘uns are the ones who are likely to celebrate it.
Halloween vibes are definitely met with spooky decor, pumpkins and fancy dress. Kids also do all of the traditional Halloween activities, like trick or treating.
In Russia, Halloween tends to be an excuse for young people to party. Some teenagers might go trick or treating, but households won’t stock up on sweet treats – they’ll just give out whatever sweets they have to hand.
Halloween in Turkey is also a great excuse for young ‘uns to drink and throw parties – and even then, the fancy dress is minimal.
They do, however, have a tradition similar to trick or treating – but this has nothing to do with Halloween!
The holiday is called Eid al-Adha, where families come together and kids ask for treats from elders. Some children will go around their neighbourhoods asking for sweet treats.
Halloween isn’t a big celebration in Poland. All Saints’ Day is and families will go to the cemetery together. Huge crowds gather – our resident Polish experts actually say that it’s as busy as rush hour on the London tubes!
Halloween is as much of a thing as Christmas in Japan and it’s treated like more of an event – people will get together in the centre of Tokyo at the famous Shibuya Crossing.
They use it as an excuse to dress up and throw parties. Parents also get together so that all of their kids can safely go trick or treating.
Halloween has definitely grown in China because of popular culture and social media. It’s used a lot more in commercial settings by shops and bars, or to come to Halloween events. Other than that, children don’t really go trick or treating.
All sounds like a lot of fun…
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