Halloween Around the World
Your kids might not remember your birthday, but I’m willing to bet they know when Halloween is! Priorities, right? I kid. Many families are likely well into preparations to celebrate Halloween around the world. The season of ghouls and goblins can trace its history far outside of North America and is celebrated with flourish in places all around the world.
We’ve compiled a few of the places around the world that celebrate Halloween a little differently. Share this list with your family and who knows…maybe they’ll want to change things up this year!
Scotland and Ireland
Did you know that Halloween started in Celtic countries like Scotland and Ireland? Samhain celebrations looked a lot like the Halloween we celebrate here in North America except the celebrations weren’t just for children. Adults would dress in costumes (usually made from animal skins) and go out to gather candy in celebration of the evening. There was also a large fortune telling component to the night. Treasure hunts were arranged for the kids (with candy or pastries as the prize) and a rousing game of “snap-apple” had party goers attempting to bite an apple hanging from a string.
Children in Portugal also go door-to-door. But, in this case, they are not in costume or trick-or-treating. Children participate in a tradition known as “Pao-por-Deus,” which can be translated to “Bread of God.” On November 1st, children head out to their neighbours in the morning proclaiming “Pao-por-Deus” in hopes of receiving bread, candy or small trinkets.
Countries like Mexico and Guatemala observe the “Day of the Dead” on November 1st. In Mexico, this day is celebrated with singing, talking, and enjoying time with loved ones. Decorations are placed outside homes to guide the souls of loved one’s home. In a few towns in Guatemala, the “Day of the Dead” is celebrated with a kite festival. Huge, colorful kites are created from local materials to honor the dead. These are then flown in cemeteries and pictures of the event are shared via social media. This custom can be traced to the Mayans and goes back nearly 3, 000 years.
The feast known as Ognissanti, which can be translated to “All Saint’s Day” is a traditional celebration that is paired with a more modern version of Halloween. Celebrations happen November 1st and 2nd. Much like the “Day of the Dead” in Mexico, the souls of loved ones who have passed on return to visit living relatives. Chrysanthemums are used to decorate, and food is left for returning spirits. In some parts of the country, parents leave presents for children under the guise that it was left by their returning loved ones.
In Japan, costuming is a serious endeavour and adults aren’t about to let the kids have all the fun. Adults dress up in costumes and attend parties where simple costumes won’t win you any points. At the famous Kawasaki Halloween Parade, approximately 4,000 participants come out in their Halloween finest. This prestigious event requires participants to apply at least two months in advance!
Similar to Mexico and Guatemala, in the Philippines, October 31st through November 2nd is a time of remembrance, family and honouring those who have passed on. For many years, Filipinos observed the tradition of Pangangaluluwa or “souling.” In this custom, children would travel from door to door offering a song in exchange for money or food. These were used as alms for the souls of the deceased. During the night, small household items or trinkets would “mysteriously” disappear from the house and reappear outside. Gradually over time, this tradition has morphed into what we know today as trick-or-treating.
In Spain, celebrations center around delicious foods like nuts, potatoes, fruits and desserts. Roasted chestnuts (castanyes) are a highlight and can be raffled off, served in homes or found being sold by street vendors. These treats have great significance in the history of All Saint’s Night and All Soul’s Day. Chestnuts in particular, can be tied to old funeral meals and were a symbol of communion with the dead.
More on Halloween…
As you can see, Halloween around the world often involves costumes and trick-or-treating. For a deeper look into the history of Halloween costumes, read my article in National Geographic on The Spooky-but-True History Behind your Kid’s Halloween Costume. Or, perhaps some of these traditions have inspired you to do some travelling over Halloween. Check out this 2015 Globetrotting Mama article – It’s Frightful Out There: Get On Board with Halloween Travel. While the rates and activities have likely changed, it’s a good place to spark some ideas for options to research.
Did we miss any great Halloween around the world traditions? Share your favourite international Halloween tradition with us in the comments or send a message to @ByHeatherGd on Instagram or Twitter.