The leaves are changing colors and the Halloween chill has arrived, allowing the occasion for homemade apple and pumpkin dishes, cozy sweaters, and hot cider. No matter what age you are, Halloween seems to be just as festive as the year before. Although most Americans spend this holiday dressing up and trick-or-treating, other countries have their celebratory rituals.
1. Samhain – Ireland and Scotland
Ireland has considered the birthplace of modern Halloween with its origins stemming from ancient Celtic and Pagan rituals and a festival called Samhain, or Samhuinn (end of the light half of the year), that took place thousands of years ago. Today, both Ireland and Scotland celebrate Halloween with bonfires, games, and traditional foods like barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, and rings for fortune-telling. For example, rings mean marriage, while coins mean wealth in the upcoming year.
2. Día de Los Muertos – Mexico
From November 1 to November 2, Mexico and parts of Latin America celebrate Día de Los Muertos to honor those who have passed away. It is believed that the Gates of Heaven open up at midnight on October 31 and the souls of children return to Earth to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the souls of adults come down from heaven to join in the festivities.
3. Kawasaki Halloween Parade – Japan
At the end of every October for the past 21 years, nearly 4000 costumed Halloween enthusiasts from all around the world have gathered in Kawasaki. Just outside Tokyo, for the Kawasaki Halloween Parade, which is the biggest parade of its kind in Japan. However, not everyone can simply join in the festivities. The Kawasaki Halloween Parade has strict guidelines and standards for participating. You have to apply for entry and pay a fee before the parade begins (watching, however, is free).
4. Ognissanti – Italy
All Saints’ Day, November 1, is a national holiday in Italy. Better known as Ognissanti, the festivities usually begin a couple of days before, when people begin leaving fresh flowers—generally chrysanthemums—on the graves of departed loved ones, as well as strangers, turning the country’s cemeteries into a beautiful display of colors. Italians also pay tribute to the departed by putting a red candle in the window at sunset. Also they set a place at the table for those spirits they hope will pay a visit.
5. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – worldwide
On November 1, many Catholics around the world celebrate All Saints’ Day, followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2. It’s an annual time to honor the lives of the saints who died for their Catholic beliefs, as well as the souls of dead family members. In observance of the holiday, people go to mass and visit the graves of their loved ones. While the event is celebrated worldwide, Germany has its tradition: many hide their kitchen knives so that returning spirits won’t be accidentally harmed (or use the same knives to harm the living).
Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating back to pagan times. But it is celebrated today by more people in more countries than ever before. There’s a simple reason: it is fun and it is good, clean, harmless fun for young and old alike!