Halloween is an old holiday and it’s evolved from those first Druid & Celtic roots, to what’s celebrated today. In Canada and the US is where it’s most popular. Up to 65% of Americans decorate for Halloween and Christmas is the only holiday which is more popular. More candy is sold on Halloween than on any other holiday and every country which celebrates Halloween at all, does so in its own unique way.
Halloween in Austria
Just like at Christmas in North America with milk & cookies for Santa, Austrians have a tradition of leaving water, bread, and a lighted lamp on the table before going to bed on Halloween night. From long ago, the tradition held that these types of items would welcome any dead souls back to the land of the living. Austrians felt that Halloween was a night chock full of cosmic energy and this made the dead souls’ return for a night much easier.
Halloween in Canada
Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived in Canada during the 1800s. Festivities included trick or treating and parties, homes decorated with corn stalks and pumpkins, plus the carving of Jack O’Lanterns.
Halloween in Belgium
Belgian’s believe that a black cat crossing someone’s path is unlucky. If it goes on a ship or enters a home, then that’s also unlucky and Belgians light candles on Halloween to remember dead relatives.
Halloween in Czechoslovakia
Chairs are put by the fireside on Halloween and they are one per family member, plus one for each of their spirits.
Halloween in China
Halloween is known by Teng Chieh here. Water and food are placed in front of dead relatives’ photographs. Lanterns and bonfires are lit so that spirits can see the pathway back to earth. Buddhists make little boats from paper and these are burned when it gets dark and this honors the dead, plus spirits of pretas are released and can ascend into heaven. Pretas are people who died because they drowned or had an accident and their bodies weren’t able to be buried. If pretas roam amongst the living, the Chinese feel that it’s dangerous.
Halloween in England
English children used to carve beetroots like Jack O’Lanterns. They carried these “punkies” from door to door and sang, then asked for money. Turnip lanterns were placed on posts to protect the home form spirits roaming around on Halloween. Sometimes, stones, nuts and vegetables were tossed into a bonfire to scare away spirits and fortune telling was often read into the remains of the bonfire in the morning. The English people no longer celebrated Halloween when Martin Luther had his protestant reformation. Costumes and trick or treating have crossed back over the pond into England and the children there go out on Halloween. Most seniors in England don’t know what it’s all about.
Halloween in France
Until 1996, Halloween was thought of as an American holiday and the French do not celebrate it to honor the dearly departed.
Halloween in Hong Kong
Yue Lan is the name of the Halloween celebration in Hong Kong. Spirits supposedly roam freely for 24 hours and people there burned photos of money and fruit.
Halloween in Germany
Residents of Germany put their knives away on Halloween because returning spirits could be harmed.
Halloween in Japan
In Japan, the Obon festival is similar to Halloween. Food is prepared and red lanterns are hung all over. When lit candles are placed into the lanterns they are set adrift on rivers. Families light fires to show ancestors the path to their families and community dances are put on, and memorial stones are cleaned during the Obon Festival. The Japanese festival happens during August or July.
Halloween in Ireland
This is supposed to be the birthplace of Halloween. Bonfires are lit in the countryside and children dress in costumes then go trick or treating. Parties are given in neighborhoods and games are played, one of which is bobbing for apples. A type of fruitcake is eaten on Halloween and a treasure is buried inside for someone to find.
While there are obviously parts of the globe that do not recognize or celebrate it, Halloween around the world is a traditional holiday that is considered one of the oldest in history. It is still the most popular in North America, Canada and possibly Ireland. There are plenty of other countries and regions that honor the holiday, though some of the traditions of Halloween may vary from place to place.
America – The jack-o’ -lantern was introduced by Irish settlers who brought the tradition with them. Their own folklore told the tale of a man named Jack who tricked the Devil on more than one occasion, but made the Devil agree to never claim his soul. Upon the man’s death, when the Devil could not let him enter, and Heaven wouldn’t take him, the Devil sent Jack away. Given only a coal from Hell to light the way, Jack found and carved a turnip to use as a lantern to carry this in.
The jack-o’-lantern was thus born and Irish traditionalists used the lantern in their homes to ward off spirits at Halloween. Once arriving in American and seeing large pumpkins that would work better for carving, the jack-o’-lantern was no longer a turnip.
As for the tradition of trick-or-treating, that appears to have begun in the 1950’s, though possible earlier. Costumed children began dressing in costume and demanding of residents that they hand over sweets, or sometimes money, or face the wrath of some trickery.
Canada – It is believed that Halloween traditions were started as far back as the 1800’s when the Irish immigrants first started landing there. Their Halloween customs do not deviate from the same ways Americans celebrate Halloween. They also use carved pumpkins and children partake in trick-or-treating.
China – Their Halloween celebrations are a bit more spirit friendly, as they actually encourage the spirits of their dead loved ones to return on this night. Lanterns are ignited to help the deceased find their way, and food offerings are left by their pictures. It is considered an honor to have the chance to have these souls return.
England – A different form of trick-or-treat was played out here, and may possibly the start of what became trick-or-treat for others who celebrate Halloween around the world. Children would wander the streets singing songs and door knocking to request money from residents. More recently, the British children began to bring back the tradition of door knocking on Halloween, but expecting changing it up to resemble the American style of trick-or-treating.
Ireland – This is also a place where Halloween is still celebrated possibly as much as it is in American and Canada. It is also considered the possible birthplace of the holiday. Children have their trick-or-treat festivities but the celebration continues and adults participate by having bonfires and parties.
Mexico – Like China, the dead are honored and this celebration of the dead is actually a joyous, festive occasion. Halloween (Day of the Dead) is actually just the day the celebration begins and continues for 3 days, ending on November 2, which is All Souls Day. Shrines and alters go up in homes for families hoping their deceased loved ones will return for a visit. Candy and other offerings are left as gifts to welcome spirits, and incense and candles are burned on the final day to help spirits find their way back.
Korea – To honor the dead on Halloween, Koreans visit the graves of their loved ones bearing gifts.
Austria – Another place where the dead are welcomed guests. A table light is left burning, and bread is left as an offering for any spirits of loved ones whom may stop by.
Czechoslovakia – Here, also, dead loved ones are invited to stop by. Chairs for all household members living and dead are placed out so the family can reunite.
Germany – They do not welcome spirits, but they do hide sharp utensils such as knives, so they will not be hurt by ghosts.
There are other places and methods for celebrating Halloween around the world, but these are just a few examples of the differences and similarities of many areas. There is also of course France that refuses to acknowledge Halloween, claiming it is an American holiday. Globalization has caused some time honored traditions to shift and more closely resemble the American festivities of Halloween, especially concerning the creation and placement of jack-o’-lanterns and events like trick-or-treat. Who could blame kids for wanting their families to adopt this sort of tradition, though?
Info provided by: Halloween.com