Halloween-style Celebrations Around the World

Halloween isn’t the only celebration of it’s kind – take a look at the ways different countries and cultures honour their dead have their own ‘Halloween’

Whilst Halloween for us in the UK may involve dressing up like witches, bats, cats, and ghouls, for many it’s something far different.

In lots of countries and cultures around the globe, you won’t find children knocking on doors begging for sweets, or drinking the night away whilst dressed like a devil.

Here’s how different people celebrate their version of Halloween and honour the dead around the world:

  • Mexico, Latin America, Spain – the aptly titled ‘Day of the Dead’ (Dias de los Meurtos) has been gaining in popularity in the UK over the past few years, with many throwing Day of the Dead themed parties (myself included) or dressing up as colourful candy skull for Halloween. However, Dias de los Muertos is originally celebrated in places like Mexico, Spain, and other Latin America countries. The holiday is a chance for people to honour the dead and various offerings are presented to a makeshift altar in the home. Graveyards are tidied and fresh flowers and gifts placed. November 2nd is traditionally when relatives will gather at the gravestone of a deceased family member, and will reminisce over their life.
  • Ireland – ‘Halloween’ supposedly originated in Ireland, and much of their holiday celebrations do not differ from the ones we see today in the UK. However, there are a few differences. “Snap-apple”, a game where an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree and people attempt to bite the apple, is played. Barnbrack, a traditional Irish fruitcake, is eaten: each cake contains either a ring or a piece of straw. A ring means that person is soon to be wed, whilst the straw means the year is going to prosperous. Halloween treasure hunts are often constructed, children following a candy or pastry trail.
  • Cambodia – P’Chum Ben this year was celebrated mid-September, yet is very similar to the roots of our original Halloween intentions. It comes at the end of the Buddhist ‘lent’ period, and is one of the most important holidays on the Khmer religious calender. Respects are paid to dead ancestors through offerings of food items and visits to local pogoda’s. Family and friends then gather to listen to music and to hear the monks speak.
  • Japan – similar to Chinese New Year yet held in the middle of the summer, the Obon Festival in Japan honours the spirits of their ancestors. Red lanterns are lit and released onto rivers and oceans. Fires are also lit each night of the festival which lasts three days. Similar to Day the of Dead, family graves are also cleaned and re-visited.
  • Other European countries – even in our neighbouring countries in Europe, they have their own differing way of celebrating Halloween, and some unusual festive quirks. In Germany, people put away their knives so no harm comes to the returning spirits. In Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside – one chair each for the living family member and the spirit of a dead relative. Austrians leave bread, water and a lamp on before going to bed on Halloween night, as they believe it will help guide the spirits back to Earth for the night.

It seems we each have our own equally interesting versions of Halloween and varying ways of honouring the spirits on the other side, all of which are deeply rooted in local culture and tradition.

So, how do you celebrate your Halloween? 
halloween around the world




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