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Everybody in the UK knows that Halloween is a time to get dressed up in fun costumes, go trick or treating and celebrate with your friends and family. That is how we celebrate it here, but what about in other countries? Let’s look at some of the ways that different cultures celebrate Halloween…
Halloween is believed to have originated in Ireland, and the Irish celebrate the event very similarly to us. They wear costumes, go trick or treating and host parties featuring games such as “Snap Apple” (also known as “Apple Bobbing”). A traditional Irish card game played at Halloween involves placing cards face down on a surface with sweets or coins hidden under them. The player picks a card and receives whatever prize lies underneath. Children also play a game called “Knock-A-Dolly” — knocking on a neighbour’s door before running away!
Food is also an important part of the celebrations. ‘Barnbrack’ is traditional sweet bread eaten at Halloween in Ireland. This treasured food is a kind of fruitcake with a treat baked inside that can be bought at stores or baked at home. Supposedly, whoever receives the slice with a prize in it will have good luck. On the other hand, if a piece of straw is found, it means that a prosperous year is on its way, while a ring means that the person will soon be married!
In Italy, it is common for families to bake bean-shaped cakes called fave dei morti (or ‘beans of the dead’, in English). These small cakes are made from eggs, flour, sugar, butter, flavourings, and ground almonds. Many people, mostly those in southern Italy, even prepare a feast for departed relatives. After this, they go to church and place flowers on their relatives’ graves — leaving the spirits to feast on the food that they prepared earlier in the day.
Teng Chieh is what Halloween is known as in China. The Chinese celebrate Halloween by placing food and water in front of photographs of family members who have passed away. They also light bonfires and lanterns to guide the spirits as they travel the Earth during the night. In Buddhist temples, worshippers make fachuan (or ‘boats of the law’) out of paper. These are then burned in the evening, which is apparently to remember the dead and to assist pretas.
In Chinese culture, pretas are believed to be the spirits of people who died because of an accident, and so are never buried. The fachuan is thought to help free the spirits, and temples have several ceremonies dedicated to the pretas. These include asking monks to recite sacred verses and offer fruit.
Halloween is not celebrated by the French to honour departed relatives. In fact, it was practically unknown in the country until the 1990s! The French, who are typically resistant to Americanisation, regard Halloween as an American holiday. However, some people in France enjoy the festivities and host fancy dress parties similar to the UK and USA.
In 1982, a restaurant named “American Dream” began celebrating Halloween, although it was difficult to explain the purpose of the holiday to each customer. Thankfully, since about 1995, many customers have become familiar with the occasion.
Communities on several occasions have tried to introduce Halloween to France. For example, Saint-Germain-en-Laye held a Halloween party on 24 October 1996, in an attempt to show people what Halloween was all about.
In France today, Halloween is celebrated like many other countries, with costumes, parties and trick or treating. Although, it remains common for many French people to refuse to enjoy it, as they don’t believe in the tradition. The most interesting thing about Halloween in France is how long it took to catch on…
In Mexico, Halloween is celebrated mostly by children who wear costumes and go trick or treating. However, people generally show a lot of affection towards their deceased relatives on this day. Families gather around photos of their dead relatives and place food, drink and cempasúchil (flowers) to welcome them back.
Mexicans are also known to decorate skulls, as well as create images of skeletons. But the country’s ‘Day of the Dead’, which falls near Halloween, is celebrated on a far greater scale. Mexicans embrace it as a festive occasion with parties, dancing, singing, and even fireworks!
In a nutshell, Halloween is celebrated differently all over the world. Some countries use the tradition to celebrate the lives of those they have lost; some refuse to acknowledge the event; and others don’t know much about why we celebrate it in the first place.
Nevertheless, and however you choose to mark the day, we hope you all have a great Halloween! Stay safe, have fun and celebrate as you see fit…