9 Crazy Halloween Traditions from Around the World
I absolutely LOVE Halloween. Second only perhaps to Christmas, it is the most festive holiday, the kind that pulls you right back into being a kid again and you can't help but join in the debauchery! Perhaps it's the spookiness of the whole 'day of the dead' thing, that it's perfectly acceptable to eat nothing but sweets all day, or the fact that it's basically an excuse for grown-ups to play dress up. Whatever the reason, the idea of celebrating the dead is beloved by people all around the world and we each have our different traditions which makes it all the more fascinating!
Here are some of the unique ways in which All Hallows Eve is celebrated in other countries:
1. Ireland - Fortunetelling Fruitcakes
Ireland is the birthplace of Halloween, so naturally many of the standard traditions originated here such as the ding-dong-ditch 'trick' element of trick-or-treating. But did you also know that fortunetelling is a big part of the holiday for the Irish? Folks wrap treats inside of a fruitcake called barmbrack, and each treat has a meaning for its recipient: if it contains a coin, wealth was in your future; a thimble means you're doomed to never marry; and, there's an interesting bouquet-toss-element to it too wherein if a young woman gets a ring made from a pastry, bread or mashed potatoes, she'll be married by next Halloween.
2. Czechoslovakia - Seating for the Dead
In Czechoslovakia, chairs are place for each deceased family member's spirit by the fireplace on Halloween night. No need to catch a cold just because your dead, right?
3. China - Lighting the Way to Heaven
For the Chinese festival of Teng Chieh, or the Feast of the Hungry Ghosts, lanterns are lit on miniature paper boats, released on the water and chants are sung to encourage a peaceful journey to heaven for the spirits of those who were not given a proper burial after passing away and have come back to haunt the living.
4. Des Moines & St. Louis - Jokes for Treats
Most of us simple say "trick or treat" upon arrival at a neighbor's house to receive candy, but in some US cities such as Des Moines and St. Louis, children are expected to work for their treats, telling jokes before they receive candy. I'm a big fan of this, it teaches kids that nothing comes for free and provides mild amusement for those left behind to dole out the bags of candy.
5. Mexico - Dia de los Muertos
In the Latin community, Halloween is a two day long celebration during which villages hold parades featuring dancers dressed as skeletons and a live person inside a coffin carried by ushers. Families also construct altars in their living rooms using flowers, candles, photographs, and of course tequila. Angelenos can get a taste of Dia de los Muertos at the Hollywood Cemetery, more info here.
6. Germany - Hidden Silverware
While Germany's Halloween celebrations are similar to many other countries in that residents believe that spirits will return to from the dead, Germans hide their knives before they go to bed on All Hallows Eve ... allegedly because they don't want the spirits to hurt themselves. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.
7. Italy - Beans of the Dead
For Italians, every holiday is about food and Halloween is no different. Many families make bean-shaped cakes, and in southern Italy families actually cook an entire feast for their dearly departed and then go to church, leaving their doors unlocked so spirits can enjoy the food. I wonder how they handle any ghosts that want to take home extras?
8. Britain - Bonfires for Guys
As All Saints Eve is considered a pagan holiday, traditionally protestant England needed an alternative holiday to celebrate. The Brits instead observe Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th - Fawkes attempted to destroy the House of Lords with explosives in 1605. His failure to succeed is celebrated with fireworks, bonfires and kids dressing up dummies and going door to door asking for money. Fun fact: as the tradition of dressing dummies up, 'guy' became a term referring to any oddly dressed person which is also where the slang term we use today originated.
9. Philippines - Let Them Eat Soul Cake
In the Philippines, Halloween is celebrated by children dressing in white and going door to door to sing songs and say prayers for the dead. In exchange, neighbors will traditionally give them soul cakes in return. It's believed that when a soul cake is consumed, a trapped soul is set free from purgatory.
Have you guys ever come across any interesting ways in which other cultures celebrate Halloween?