The American traditions of Halloween are known to all: everyone dons a costume, pumpkins are carved, kids go door to door asking for candy, and month-long marathons of ghost stories and scary movies. Americans will end up spending nearly $7 billion on Halloween this year, while 64% of the population plan on joining in on the festivities in one way or another. But Halloween isn’t celebrated this way around the world; Americans and Canadians celebrate the holiday the most. If you’ve ever wondered who else celebrates Spook Night, and how, we’ve got the rundown on Halloween around the world in five different countries, and how they celebrate All Hallow’s Eve.
The birthing place of Halloween, the Irish celebrate their holiday with huge bonfires, kids playing tricks on neighbors (think along the lines of ding-dong-ditch), and plenty of trick-or-treating. There are also lots of parties, and a game called “snap-apple,” where apples are tied with a string to a tree or a door frame, and people bob for them. Treasure hunts are fairly common as well, with the candies as the treasure.
Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a three-day festival in Mexico and other places influenced by the Aztec culture. All Souls Day (November 2) is when this holiday is officially celebrated, but it actually begins on Halloween. The holiday honors the dead who are believed to return to their family homes during the three-day period. The graveyard is usually tidied up and repaired, and oftentimes decorated with streamers and flowers. An altar of sorts is made up in the house of the deceased, adorned with flowers, candies, and photographs. The spirit also gets some water and a towel to clean themselves up.
The concept of Halloween wasn’t really known in France until quite recently. Beginning in 1982, the American Dream Bar and Restaurant in France began celebrating it, and in 1996, a little town called Saint Germain-en-Laye held a Halloween celebration in the middle of the day, a full week before October 31, to give people an idea of what Halloween is all about. Basically though, Halloween is seen as a very imposing American holiday, and pumpkins are for cooking, not carving.
Although this is a long hop away from Ireland, China celebrates its own type of Halloween, called the Hungry Ghost Festival, in the seventh month of the Chinese calendar (July for Westerners) for about two weeks. It is believed that spirits are released from Hell on the first day of the month, and wander around being generally evil and angry. They might look for some fun, and may try to find their enemies. Many people also avoid swimming or being alone so as to avoid run-ins with ghosts. The Chinese put out photographs or paintings of their ancestors. On the last day of the festival, money and food are left out for the spirits and Buddhist monks chant a sound that the spirits hate, so as to banish them back to whence they came, back to the gates of Hell.
This being the place whence Bram Stoker’s Dracula emerged from, it may be easy to assume that the place is Halloween crazy. Not so. There are tourist-driven vampire tours and parties, but the Romanians don’t celebrate Halloween as Americans know it. But there is something called the Night of Vampires: St. Andrew’s Night, held November 29. This is when vampires and strigoi (or the undead) roam the land, dance, and fight in town and wherever. It is believed that animals can speak as humans, but you aren’t supposed to listen to them talking. There are some villages that hold celebrations and guard the garlic. Doors and windows are adorned with garlic, and girls are to carry three garlic knots with them, which older women guard in a pot during the night.