Celebrated every year on October 31 in most countries, Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays. The term Halloween means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening” — an evening to remember the deceased. By Priyanka Lamba
Also referred to as All Hallows Eve or All Saints’ Eve, the origin of Halloween can be traced back to ancient folklore and pagan festivals that took place in Celtic-speaking countries like Scotland and Ireland. The festival is said to have derived from the Celtic festival of Samhain as their New Year’s Eve falls on October 31.
Halloween has gained popularity over the years and is celebrated with joy across several countries. However, at some places, the festivities are mellowed down to visiting the graves of loved ones.
From trick-o-treating and other games to preparing delicacies and dressing up in different costumes, here’s how Halloween is celebrated around the world.
From lighting fires under the sky to donning scary costumes and gathering treats like snacks, chocolates or candies from neighbours, the Irish surely know how to celebrate Halloween to the hilt.
It is believed that Halloween was first celebrated in Ireland as Samhain — evil spirits visited the land of the living during the pagan festival and people would light bonfires and wear different kinds of costumes to keep these spirits away.
The Irish have a special dessert dedicated to the occasion — Barmbrack, which is a Halloween fruitcake.
It is baked with traditional charms like a piece of cloth, a ring, a pea or straw, which indicate the future of the person eating a slice of the cake. While finding a ring in one’s share means they are about to get married, a piece of straw signifies a lucky year is round the corner.
Londonderry, a city in Northern Ireland, hosts Europe’s largest Halloween carnival called Banks of the Foyle.
Want to know if you and your partner are meant to be? The Scotts might have a solution to that.
The Halloween ritual of throwing nuts into the fire is believed to answer such questions. If the nuts roast without crackling in the fire, you will have a happy relationship. Else, you will not get married soon.
Halloween in Scotland originated from the Celtic Samhuinn Festival, which marked the end of the harvest season. Moreover, traditions like trick-o-treating and carving out jack-o’-lanterns date back to this ancient festival.
When talking about how Halloween is celebrated around the world, one cannot leave out the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan has eventually opened its heart to Halloween, albeit with a twist.
Instead of dressing up as ghosts, skeletons and other scary characters, the Japanese indulge in Cosplay — a portmanteau of costume play, where people dress up as their favourite characters from films, books, video games and much more. They present a perfect mix of costumes and theatrics. Japan surely knows how to go trick-o-treating in style.
Besides, the country has its version of Halloween — Obon. The three-day Buddhist festival, which starts from either mid-July or mid-August, is aimed at honouring the spirits of ancestors. The Japanese pay their respects to the dead by visiting their graves and performing ceremonial dances.
This list on how Halloween is celebrated around the world will be incomplete without mentioning Mexico’s popular Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. On this day, people honour the memories of the loved ones they have lost. It is celebrated annually on November 1 and 2.
It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit during Día de los Muertos. Mexicans go all out with preparing scrumptious feasts and building ofrendas — altars upon which gifts like skull-shaped sweets and tequila are presented. Dancing to the tunes of mariachi music and dressing up as their ancestors are part of the festivities.
Germans celebrate Halloween for an entire week — from October 31 to November 8 — and call it All Saints Day. In a rather mellowed down affair, people remember the deceased by visiting and laying flowers on the graves of their dear ones during this week. Germans also visit churches to pay their respects to the late saints.
As a tradition, Germans hide their knives to prevent any harm that may come upon the spirits who choose to return to the living world during Halloween.
Adding a dash of fun to the routine, people attend the Pumpkin Festival in Retzer Land or visit the Burg Frankenstein castle, where the story of Frankenstein originated.
Centuries ago, Halloween celebrations were believed to be an influence of European ethnic groups and were limited to certain parts of America. They became popular only in the latter half of the 19th century, when America became home to Irish immigrants, who had left their native place to escape the Irish Potato Famine or Great Hunger.
Celebrations in the United States come with their share of fun and frolic. Americans love to play various games with their loved ones to celebrate Halloween. One of the most popular ones is bobbing for apples where kids try to catch as many apples with their mouths in a big pot of water. Trick-o-treating is another favourite Halloween activity. Wearing costumes and dressing up as different characters from films, books and much more is an indispensable part of the festivities.
Americans also love to decorate their homes with Jack-o’-lanterns, a lamp made by carving faces on pumpkins and placing candles inside them. The carved out portion of the pumpkin is used to make delicacies like pumpkin pie or soup.
Haitians observe the Fèt Gede or Festival of the Ancestors. The festival, similar to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, is celebrated on November 1 and 2, and coincides with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ day, respectively. Halloween is celebrated differently by Catholics, Protestants and followers of Vodou in the Caribbean nation.
While some visit the church to offer prayers and remember those they have lost, others dress up as Vodou spirits and take to the streets. Moreover, people light candles, visit the graves of their ancestors and enjoy a glass of rum infused with chillies.