Halloween Traditions Around The World

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I love Halloween, it's my favorite holiday.  And I love traveling.  So, I thought we'd do a fun post today looking at some Halloween traditions around the world.  I would love to check out all of these areas, and being there for this particular holiday seems like a great time to go!


It only makes sense to start with Ireland since that's where Halloween got it's origins.  The celebration started here around 1000 AD.  It all started because people believed that on the eve of Halloween, dead spirits could enter our world, so they lit bonfires and wore disguises to frighten them away. Many of the Irish traditions of Halloween are still what we use in the US today.  The costumes, the spooky stories, and even trick or treating and Halloween games.  The idea of trick or treating came from long ago in Ireland when the poor would go door to door to the wealthy people's homes and ask for food, money, or kindling for their bonfires.  This is what they would use for their celebrations.

The Irish play "snap apple" which is the same thing we play in the US today- except we know it as "bobbing for apples" or "doughnuts on a string".

The Irish also carry on a tradition of eating barnbrack for Halloween.  It's pretty much a loaf of cake with fruit in it.  But, then fun part is people also put a surprise in it and it's supposed to tell your fortune.  If you find a coin, you will have a prosperous year.  A ring means that you will be getting married within the year.  A thimble would mean that you won't ever marry.  And if you find a rag, it means that you will be poor.

Instead of carving pumpkins, people carved turnips instead.  Some still carry on the tradition today.

United States

Our traditions still hold close to those in Ireland.  Children and adults usually dress up in costumes of goblins, monsters, and more modernly- beloved tv characters.  The children then go door to door in the evenings saying "Trick or Treat" and the neighbors give them candy.  Parties are also held with food, music, and games.  Many people may go to haunted houses, corn mazes, carve jack o laterns, etc.

 Lately it has started to be an entire week event with different things to do in many cities.  A lot of churches and schools have been doing a "Trunk or Treat" for the kids where you park your cars in a parking lot, decorate the trunks, and the kids can come trick or treat for candy and play games at each of the cars.  This is supposed to be a safer method than having the kids go up to strangers houses at night time.


In Mexico, they celebrate Dia de los Muertos  (Day of the Dead).  It's a 3 day long celebration starting on October 31st through November 2nd.  This is more about celebrating and remembering the lives of those who have died, than being sad or upset by it.  They have a parade on October 31st where people dance dressed up as skeletons and often include a living person inside of a coffin, carried by ushers. This is where we get the "sugar skulls".

 Families believe that the spirits of their loved ones return this time of year.  It is said that the children return home on November 1st while adult spirits are allowed to return on November 2nd.  Families often make an altar in their living room and include flowers, candy, and favorite foods of their loved ones.

Often on November 2nd, they will have a picnic in the cemetery and take this time to clean the graves and leave flowers for their loved ones.


Halloween has become much more popular in Austria in the past decade.  Children dress up in costumes and young and old go to parties.  Teenagers are known to do some pranks like soaping car windows and tipping over garbage cans.  There are only certain neighborhoods where the children actually go trick or treating.  Every year the town of Retz (near Vienna) hold the annual Pumpkin Festival with pumpkins, parties, and a parade for the families.

One tradition that is popular in Austria, is the thought that the dead come back this night, so people leave out bread, water, and a lamp on their doorstep to let them know they are welcome.  Children also like to play tricks on their neighbors like "knock a dolly" (better known in the US as "ding dong ditch") where the children will knock on their neighbor's door and try to run away before they answer it.

We can also thank (?) the region of Austria and Bavaria for the fact that we have candy corn.  It is said to be first made here by a named Albert Goelitz who then traveled to the US with it.


In Japan, they celebrate the Obon Festival or the Latern Festival.  It's a summer festival usually held in July or August.  They believe the spirit of their dead ancestors come back during this time and this is their way to show respect and honor those who came before them.

 The Japanese people return to their homes in order to celebrate.  They welcome home the spirits with celebrations and dance.  Graves are cleaned and flowers are left.  They prepare of food and hang red lanterns all over.  The last night of Obon, they light candles (or lanterns) and float them on rivers or enjoy bonfires to honor their departed loved ones.


Halloween in Romania is interesting.  The city of Transylvania is where we get the story of Dracula or Vlad the Impaler. Bran Castle in Transylvania is the one associated with the legend.  The city goes all out for Halloween and throws a big party.  Many children don't go trick or treating in the area, but there are plenty of parties to be had for the young and old.You could attend a costume party in an authentic Gothic castle, where people dressed up as ghosts and vampires are a normal sighting.  Many people explore the legends and folklore of the area, check out haunted places, and bring out garlic to ward themselves of evil spirits.

People in Romania also may partake in the recreating of the historic witch trials.

Have you been  to another country during Halloween?  How do they celebrate?  Have you been to one of these celebrations?  I would love to hear from someone who's actually been during this time! Leave your stories in the comments below!

*During the transfer of website name from Pieces of Me to Live Simple, Travel Well, many of your comments did not transfer over.  Unfortunately, this problem cannot be fixed, however all future comments will show up fine.  Know that I have read each and every one of the comments you left and appreciate them!  Thank you!*

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