How Halloween is Celebrated Around the World
We’re all familiar with pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, and costume-wearing on Halloween. But, most of us probably don’t know where these traditions came from or how the Holiday is spent in other parts of the world.
From psychic fruitcakes to feeding those who have passed on, check out these Halloween traditions that are celebrated around the world. Some are spooky and some are silly, but you might discover new traditions to celebrate yourself!
Fruitcake That Predicts the Future (Ireland)
Ireland is really where it all began so most of the Halloween customs are the same as those in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. Bonfires are especially popular and everyone dresses in costumes for trick-or-treating.
A popular dish served at Halloween is Barnbrack. This fruitcake has a surprise wrapped inside that is said to tell the eater’s future. A ring means they will be married and a piece of straw means they will have luck in the coming year.
Using Pumpkins in More Ways Than One (America)
If you’ve watched just about any Halloween movie, you’re familiar with most of the Halloween traditions in the U.S. You’ll see witches bobbing for apples, ghosts carving pumpkins, and lots of little Batmans and Princesses running around with bags of candy.
The common thread throughout most of the dishes cooked for this Holiday is pumpkin. People will roast the seeds of the gourd, use the insides to bake into a pie, or even make a pumpkin soup. Then they’ll carve a face into the shell and stick a candle inside to make a Jack-O-Lantern.
Feeding the Dead (Austria)
Austria celebrates Halloween by feeding the dead! A common custom is to leave bread and water on the table before bed (kind of like leaving cookies and milk for Santa). People will leave a light on by the food.
This is a way of giving those who have passed away a path back to earth from the night so they might celebrate with their living loved ones. El Día De Los Muertos involves similar customs.
Don’t Let Black Cats in the House (Belgium)
In Belgium, it is a common custom to light candles in memory of loved ones who have passed. This is a pretty common custom across the world. But Belgium also practices caution when it comes to black cats.
You might have heard that black cats are bad luck. No wonder they’re always pictured as a witch’s pet in television and film. Belgians believe it is extremely bad luck for a black cat to enter your house or cross paths with you on Halloween.
Dia De Los Muertos (Mexico)
Dia De Los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is a celebration that takes place over a few days; beginning on October 31 and ending on November 2. This colorful holiday allows the living and dead to celebrate together.
Feasts include skull-shaped treats, sweet bread, and more. The costumes are colorful and people celebrate with food, music, and tributes to loved ones. It’s a celebration of life rather than a dwelling of death.
Paper Boats on Fire (China)
Halloween celebrations in China are known as Teng Chieh. Similar to traditions in Austria, people in China will leave food and water next to photos of passed loved ones. There are many fire traditions used to help their passed friends and family members find their way back home.
For instance, some people create boats made for paper in Buddhist temples and light them on fire so they burn throughout the night. You’ll find lanterns lit across the country as well.
Hiding the Knives to Protect the Spirits (Germany)
While we typically only celebrate Halloween on October 1st in the U.S., Germany actually has an entire week of celebrations. They call it All Saints Day and they spend lots of time in church honoring saints who have passed away.
Many people also take this time to visit the graves of their loved ones. One of the most interesting traditions in Germany is that they hide the knives in the home to protect the spirits who are returning to earth.
Magic Apple Peels (Scotland)
The apple peel celebration is something of a lost tradition now, but it used to be a major custom in Scotland on Halloween. People would peel an apple in one long peel and then throw the peel over their shoulder. Apparently, the letter that the peel forms is said to be the first letter of your future spouse’s name!
Some people would also eat an apple in front of the mirror because they believed that their future spouse would appear in the candlelight. Spooky!
Soul Cakes (England)
During the Middle Ages in England, people were incredibly overworked and did not have the time to offer prayers on All Saints Day (Halloween). So, they hired underprivileged people to offer prayers to their lost loved ones on their behalf.
They were offered “soul cakes” as a reward for offering up other people’s prayers. This grew into a tradition where soul cakes are often used as offerings to the dead for this occasion.
Roasted Nuts Are Relationship Psychics (Scotland)
Among some of the Scott’s more interesting traditions is this Halloween ritual. Scotts will throw nuts into a fire and wait to hear how loudly they crack. Why? It is believed that the sound of crack will tell you if you and your partner are really meant to be.
If the nuts crack loudly, you can kiss your lover goodbye. But, if the nuts roast quietly you are sure to have many more happy years to come! Will you put your fate in the hands of nuts and a fire?
Operas and Puppets Shows (Malaysia)
Chinese communities in Malaysia celebrate what is known as the Hungry Ghost Festival. It is similar to the Dia De Los Muertos in that it welcomes the dead back to earth to celebrate with their living loved ones.
In Malaysia, there are many celebrations for the Hungry Ghost Festival which include song, dance, and other entertainment. Namely, they put on operas and puppet shows. Some of these traditions are also celebrated in Chinese communities in Singapore.
Cosplay in the Cities (Japan)
Halloween is not a holiday that is native to Japan, but, like many other countries, Japanese culture has adopted some of the traditions and put their own twist on them.
Cosplay and costuming are already common in Japanese culture, so it’s only natural that they would participate in this Holiday that involves so many costumes. In big cities like Tokyo, the dress-up and cosplay are particularly impressive.
Halloween is Banned (Rwanda)
Halloween is not celebrated everywhere, and in some cases it is actually banned! Rwanda is a Central African country which banned Halloween and any celebrations that accompany it in 2013.
The government felt that the Halloween traditions encouraged people to move away from traditional Rwandan culture. Specifically,welcoming phenomena like spirits and ghosts goes against the culture of some African cultures.
Party in Dracula’s Castle (Romania)
According to the narrative about the famed vampire, Dracula, he originated from Transylvania. Since Transylvania is located in Romania, there are celebrations connected to Dracula and the lore that surrounds him.
On All Hallows Eve (the night before Halloween) Bran Castle is open to the public for a huge dance party! This castle is one of many that is associated with the legend of Dracula. Go dance with the vampires… if you dare!