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Nikita Rudra Oct 30 2014

What are the various Halloween traditions around the world?

Debangana Sen Oct 30 2014
0 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

Halloween traditions around the world are as varied as the different cultures and communities celebrating the festival. The only common connect being the supernatural element. Being one of the world’s oldest traditions, dating back to pagan times, Halloween traditions and rituals have certainly evolved in their own ways in different regions of the world with many quirky touches thrown in. Here’s a quick peek at how the world celebrates Halloween and other festivals related to the dead and the occult.

Halloween costumes (by Anthony22)

United States of America: The King of all Halloween Celebrations

Halloween is big business in America! In fact, it is the second most commercial holiday after Christmas. A common activity right before Halloween is to visit pumpkin patches and picking the best ones for carving Jack o’lanterns. Today, the modern imagery of Halloween comes from different sources like Gothic literatures, Christian beliefs, classic horror movies, etc. People usually wear costumes modeled after scary supernatural figures, but Cinderellas, Donald Ducks and Flash Gordons are not that uncommon.

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in New York is the largest Halloween parade in the world (by InSapphoWeTrust)

Children usually dress up in their chosen costumes and go door-to-door for the trick-or-treating. People usually stock up on candies and small gifts to give away to them. More enthusiastic souls decorate their homes with creepy, supernatural props. Traditional Halloween games include treasure hunts, apple bobbing (where participants have to take a bite of an apple that has been dunked in a drum, without using their hands) and visiting haunted houses. Themed Halloween parties are also quite a rage.

Halloween pumpkins on sale (by Lover of Romance)

Ireland: This is Where it all Started!

Halloween is thought to have been inspired from the ancient Celtic ritual of Samhain, where it was believed that on the 1st of Nov, the dead returned to the land of the living. So on the previous night, people would keep food and wine on their doorstep to feed and appease the dead. They would even go about their business wearing masks and long gowns, so that the ghosts would mistake them as one of their own. This ritual was later Christianized and called “All Saint’s Day” or “All Hallows” from where Halloween got its name.

Apple Bobbing (by Caleb Zahnd)

Today, Ireland celebrates Halloween much like the United States with the usual trick-or-treating, apple bobbing, dressing up and treasure hunts. The concept of Jack o’lantern is based on an Irish folklore, and is said to represent dead souls who don’t get entry in either heaven or hell. A traditional cake called Barnbrack is eaten on Halloween. The cake usually has something hidden inside it that is said to foretell the eater’s future. For example, a ring would mean the finder will be getting married soon; a piece of straw indicates prosperity.

Great Britain: Guy Fawkes Day

Up till recently, Halloween was not celebrated in Britain after the spread of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Since the new religion didn’t have saints, so there wasn’t any point in celebrating “All Saints Day”. However, with increased commercialization, Britain is beginning to latch onto the Halloween fad inspired by the USA.

Guy Fawkes Night celebrations (by Peter Trimming)

However, Guy Fawkes Day is a major event in Britain, celebrated around the same time. This ritual began in 1605, after a foiled attempt to blow up the English Parliament. Fawkes, the not-too-bright accomplice, became the fall guy. Since then, each year on 5 November, bonfires are lit throughout Britain to burn Fawkes’s effigies accompanied by fireworks.

Guy Fawkes masks are a common sight on this day (by Al)

Similar to trick-or-treating, children go begging from door-to-door, asking for “a penny for guy” (to buy firewood so that they can burn him alive). The old custom of throwing stones and food into the bonfires to scare away ghosts, is still practiced by many.

Spain and Latin America: El Dia De Las Muertos

One of the interesting Halloween traditions around the world can be seen in many Spanish-speaking nations, particularly Mexico. Here, Halloween is celebrated as "El Dia de los Muertos" (the day of the dead). This is a 3-day celebration commencing from the evening of 31 October till 2 November. This is practiced to remember and honour the dead and celebrate the continuity of life.

Aztec dance during El dia de las Muertos (Daniel Orth)

Many families construct an altar in their home and decorate it with sweets, flowers, photographs, and samples of the deceased's favourite foods and drinks. Even a wash basin and towels are left out so that the spirit can wash prior to indulging in the feast. On 2 November, relatives usually gather at the grave-sites to picnic and reminisce their lost loved ones. Some of these picnics may even have tequila shots and a mariachi band performance.

Altar set during the festival (by Marsaf13)

Another common sight is the Halloween parade. People dress up as skeletons or other supernatural entities and dance on the streets. A person is placed inside a coffin and paraded through the streets while people toss fruits, flowers and candies into the casket. A common food prepared in homes are special loaves of bread, called "Bread of the Dead", inside which sugar skeletons or other symbols of death are hidden. The families also attend candlelight ceremonies in churches and offer prayers for the dead.

China: Feast of the Hungry Ghost

China celebrates a similar festival known as the "Feast of the Hungry Ghost". Food and water are placed in front of photographs of deceased family members and bonfires and lanterns are lit up in order to show the path to the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night to meet their living families. "Boats of the law" are fashioned from paper, which are then burned in the evening hours.

Food offerings for the hungry ghosts (by Thetruthaboutfgs)

This is done as a tribute to the dead and is believed to free the spirits who are still roaming on earth. Societies are formed and monks are invited to carry out ceremonies for the same, which includes the lighting lanterns and reciting sacred verses.

1 billion Hell Bank notes are also burned, which are believed to be used by the dead in hell (by ProjectManhattan)

France: La Fête d'Halloween

French do not celebrate Halloween to honour the dead. It is largely regarded as an “American” holiday, and is thus not very openly accepted by many French people. However, in the last decade or so, Halloween has become an accepted concept. Stores, restaurants, malls, offices, and homes are lavishly decorated, pastry and candy shops dish out special Halloween-themed desserts and candies. Trick-or-treating is not that common, but it is common to go store-to-store instead of door-to door. Costume parties are also quite a hit with the youngsters.

Trick or Treat? (by Ryo Fukasawa)

Italy: Feast for the Dead

A lot of Italian families make bean-shaped cakes called “Beans of the Dead”. In south Italy, families prepare a grand feast for their departed relatives and then leave for church, leaving their homes open so that the spirits can come and feast undisturbed.

Japan: Obon Festival

The Obon festival is Japan’s version of the Halloween. This day marks one of the two important occasions in the Japanese calendar when the dead are believed to descend on earth.

Obon offering for spirits (by Blue Lotus)

Candles and red lamps are lit to show spirits of deceased family members the way back home. Special foods are prepared and priests are hired to chant prayers for the deceased. Celebrations are usually held in the evenings with lots of feasting and “bon” dances.

The bon dance (by Guilhem Vellut)


Since the last few years, India has also picked up some Halloween traditions and rituals from the West. More and more theme parties and Halloween special events are springing up each year. Check this link to know more about the best Halloween parties in India.

Czech Republic

Apart from the usual fanfare, bonfires are lit and chairs are places around it, each representing a member of the family, including the ones who have passed away.


Austrians consider the Halloween night to be magical. They usually leave bread and water on the table to welcome the spirits before retiring for the night.

Graves lit during Halloween (by Holger Motzkau)


Germans put away their knives and all sharp instruments on the eve of Halloween, so as to protect themselves from the evil spirits.

These are some of the various Halloween traditions around the world, If you think we’ve missed out on some, feel free to comment below. Have a happy Halloween!

Warner Justin Knapp Apr 04 2017
0 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes
I like that this tells about the different ways Halloween is celebrated around the world, but I don't like the fact that the writer called it a fad in the British part. It's not a fad and has been celebrated all over the world for a very long time. The fact that commercialization has made it seem hoakie doesn't mean that it is. For me it's a major holiday. I'm a Wiccan and this is not a fad and should never be perceived as one. It's our New Years and the start of the new lunar calendar (Wiccans don't follow the roman calendar for holidays). But as far as showing other places, I enjoy it and like to see that it's gaining grounds in other countries as people start to shy away from mainstream religions, but it may be due to commercialization. I hope people that follow this do look into the history and true meanings behind it and get past the sales. That's were the true bread and butter resides.
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