Halloween: A Worldwide Night Of Scares

Posted on October 29, 2014 by


Copyright 2012 by ScarecrowArtist

Copyright 2012 by ScarecrowArtist

Halloween is a worldwide holiday. Not all countries celebrate Halloween at the same time or in the same way. Depending on where you live, it’s not really called Halloween either. However, the concept is the same overall.

Halloween was first popular in Ireland. That’s where both Canada and the United States acquired their traditions. In the rural areas of Ireland, you will see many bonfires being lit and hundreds of children dressed up for trick-or-treating. A popular game called “Snap-Apple” is played at many of the parties. “Snap-Apple” is played by tying an apple to a door frame or a tree and seeing who can take a bite out of it first. Whoever can do that is declared the winner. Occasionally, at these parties, you can see little children searching for items that their parents hid for them to find.

Canada started their Halloween traditions in the 1800s when the Irish and Scottish emigrated there. Many of their Halloween traditions include trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins. These traditions are much like the United States’ because they both have the same origin.

On 31 October of every year, the United States celebrates Halloween. Children, and sometimes adults, dress up in costumes to go out with their friends and family on an adventure to collect as many sweets as possible before the end of the night. There are also many parties for all ages! Some people even set up haunted houses for those in for a scare. Another big tradition is to carve pumpkins to set out on the front porch. Then, when it gets dark out, they can set a small candle inside the pumpkin to reveal the complex designs that were carved.

In Mexico, Latin America, and Spain, Halloween is known as “El Dia de Los Muertos,” which means the Day of the Dead. This holiday begins on 31 October and ends on 2 November. They take these three days to remember those who have passed on, with beliefs that they will return to their homes on Halloween night. They decorate the altars in their homes with streamers, pictures, candy, and candles. They later bring offerings of bread, fruit, and fresh water to the altar for their returning relatives. On the last day of El Dia de Los Muertos, family members gather together to picnic by their deceased relatives’ gravesites. They also take this day to clean them up by raking, weeding, and adding brand new flowers to them. After the work is done, they feast as they say their final goodbyes to their family members until the next year.

The American traditions are slowly starting to spread over to England and Australia. Currently, young children make “punkies” out of large beets. This is the equivalent to our jack-o-lanterns that Americans make using pumpkins instead of beets. They carry their punkies around while they go trick-or-treating. Children in England do not go trick-or-treating for sweets though; they actually ask for money instead. The American custom of asking for sweets is becoming common, but very slowly because the older generations are unaware of this concept. Turnip lanterns are hung on gateposts with the thoughts that it will scare away ghostly figures all over the world.

In Germany, citizens hide their knives and weapons in fear of causing harm to or from the spirits that come back on Halloween night. In France, Halloween is known as an American holiday and was unknown to France until around 1996. The French had heard about Halloween before from tourists, but it never became even the slightest bit popular until 1996. Trick-or treating is also very rare and isn’t typically done from house to house but instead from store to store.

Halloween is known as “Alla Helgons Dag,” which means All Saints Day in Swedish. In Sweden, they celebrate Alla Helgons Dag from 31 October until 6 November. They take a whole week to memorialize those who have passed on. This is such a big thing that 30 October is a shortened work day, and schools have off to celebrate Halloween Eve!

In China, Teng Chieh is the name of their Halloween festivities. Food and water are placed by old photographs as offerings. Bonfires are lit to illuminate the paths of returning spirits. Buddhist temples burn paper in remembrance of Pretas. These are spirits of those who died from accidents and were never cremated. Their presence is considered to be dangerous, so societies carry out ceremonies to honor those spirits.

Even within China, Hong Kong celebrates the Festival of the Hungry Ghost, also known as Yue Lan. This is when they “feed” the ghosts, in the belief that the spirits roam the earth for twenty-four hours. So, in order to “feed” them, they burn pictures of fruit or money in hopes that it will eventually reach the spirits.

Chusok is a Halloween festival celebrated in Korea. This is a time when all Koreans pay respect to their ancestors. They visit their gravesites and give them offerings of rice and fruits. This festival usually takes place in the month of August.

Obon (pronounced o-bone) is the Halloween celebration in Japan. Special food is prepared, and red lanterns are hung everywhere. They place candles in lanterns and set them in the rivers and seas. In rural areas, the paths from gravesites to the houses of remaining family members are cleaned off. Altars are created to welcome the spirits. Then, two days later, they set off fires to lead them back. In cities, they make a memorial token on their patio, memorial stones are cleaned, and a community dance is performed. All these activities take place in either July or August.

Although Halloween’s purpose is the same all over the world, there are some pretty unique ways of memorializing those who have passed on. It shows that some countries treat this holiday almost like Christmas. Others don’t think too much of it or have even sort of lost sight of the meaning behind Halloween.

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