In the UK we have lots of traditions surrounding Halloween: Trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, making and eating toffee apples and other things that you’ll have been familiar with since you were a child. In other countries, however, Halloween can look quite different.
Here’s a little look at how other countries celebrate Halloween. Maybe you can incorporate some of these ideas into your own Halloween celebrations:
Mexico’s Dia de los Meurtos or “Day of the Dead” is celebrated for three days, beginning on the evening of the 31st of October. Families construct an alter in their home to welcome back the spirits of deceased relatives and decorate it with gifts of photographs, flowers (particularly marigolds), sweets, sugar skulls and their favourite food and drink. A bowl of water and towel is also left out so that the returning spirits can wash before enjoying their feast.
Breads and biscuits are made in the shape of skulls and skeletons and the whole family enjoys feasting and celebrations. The graves of loved ones are also cleaned and weeded and decorated with flowers and streamers. Candles and incense are lit to help the dead find their way home. Families gather at the grave site for prayers and it is not uncommon to see family members enjoying picnics or sleeping by graves in the cemetery.
As you might imagine, Halloween in Romania centres around the famous vampire, Dracula. This mythical character is believed to be based on Vlad the Impaler, who was born in Transylvania. There are many large parties held on Halloween night and re-enactments of witch trials. On a more sombre note, it is traditional for families to light candles in memory of loved ones who have died.
In Austria, it’s traditional to leave out bread, water, and a lamp before going to bed on Halloween night (just as you might leave a mince pie and glass of brandy out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve). This is to welcome the dead souls back to earth on the night the boundary between the human and the spirit world has blurred.
Food and water are also placed out in China for Halloween, along with photos of the deceased and bonfires and lanterns to help light the way for the spirits returning to earth. Boats are made from paper and then burned as a way of remembered the deceased and to help release their spirit to the immortal realm.
Halloween is purely a religious holiday in Germany and families visit the church to pray for deceased family members, as well as saints who have died protecting the Catholic faith. It’s also traditional to put away all knives on Halloween night to keep the returning spirits from coming to harm.
in Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside on Halloween night. Each family will put out one chair for each family member and one for each person who has died within the family.
Halloween is known as “Yue Lan” in Hong Kong, or “The Festival of Hungry Ghosts”. It is believed that spirits come down for earth for 24 hours. Families often burn fruit and money as it is believed that this is the way to transport them to deceased family members in the spirit realm.
American style Halloween celebrations have become more popular with young people in Japan in recent years, but the real celebration is held in July or August and is known as the “Obon” festival. During this time, it is traditional for people to return to their family homes. Houses are cleaned, the family altar is prepared with food and red lanterns and candles are lit. Welcoming fires are lit in front of the family home and it is common for a priest to visit and make special prayers.