For many people in the Western world, Halloween is a popular holiday, as many associate it with festive parties, spookily-decorated houses, or simply as a convenient excuse to play pranks on one’s friends.
Ever wonder how Halloween is observed in different places around the world? This post will tell the story behind various Halloween traditions that are observed in different corners of the globe…
Halloween traces its origins to Scotland and Ireland, where it is thought to have emerged from the pagan holiday of Samhain. The name ‘Halloween’ also originated here, as it stemmed from the shortening of the word All Hallow’s Eve when the church moved the date of All Saint’s Day in attempt to stamp out the traditions of Samhain.
Trick-or-treating was one of the core Halloween traditions that began here, as children were going from door-to-door in search of cakes, fruit, and coins as far back as the late 16th century. The modern form of this tradition predominates today, though many Scottish homeowners still insist that trick-or-treaters sing a song before they are given candy.
Pagan aspects of Samhain are also making a comeback in the modern era, as many stand around bonfires on this night before heading out to a party at a club or pub. The most elaborate of the bunch can be found in Edinburgh, where it is preceded by a torchlight parade, and accompanied by a stage show where the King of Winter defeats the King of Summer in grand fashion.
United States of America
While the holiday itself was brought over to America by immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, it is in the United States where many of modern aspects of this holiday first emerged. While the practice of trick-or-treating began in Europe centuries before, the popularization of Halloween decorations was a trend that came out of America.
By the mid-20th century, Halloween costumes for men and women had diverged beyond traditional ghosts, goblins and witches to include characters from popular culture like superheroes, police officers, ninjas and pirates (and every sexy version of them).
Those wanting to adopt American-style costumes into their Halloween repertoire this year can use costume websites such as 3Wishes wherever they are in the world, as many offer international shipping.
A far more elaborate take on this holiday is celebrated in Mexico, where it is known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Drawing heavily from Aztec traditions that existed long before the arrival of the Spanish, the Day of the Dead has combined indigenous and Catholic traditions to create a visually stunning celebration of life and death. Day of the Dead is actually a separate holiday than Halloween, but because of its similarities and being observed Nov 1, the two have swirled into a celebration lasting a few days for most.
A skeletal representation of one’s self is the only costume adopted by celebrants or strict observers of Day of The Dead, as the focus of this festival is kept on lost loved ones and one’s own mortality.
Activities throughout the festival period include visiting the graves of loved ones, the construction of altars in homes honoring their memory, and elaborate parades with no shortage of creative floats and flamboyantly-costumed marchers.