Country Pumpkins: The Spooky Halloween Traditions From Across The World
Things got spoooooky at alpharooms HQ recently. Scary pumpkins, knocks at the door, and an incredible urge to dress like a witch and beg people for sweets. Yes, it was that time of year, Halloween.
Thankfully we resisted the urge and enjoyed handing sweets to the thousands of children throughout the UK walking the streets dressed as ghosts and ghouls. Of course for the adults there were plenty of fancy dress parties happening all over the country, with more than a few ghastly things going on after too much ‘punch’.
But how is the creepy day celebrated elsewhere in the world? We’ve grabbed our broom, left our cauldron to boil, and flown off to discover what other cultures were up to right across the planet…
Ireland is commonly known as the birthplace of Halloween and is still celebrated hugely throughout the country. Like the UK the majority of this revolves around “trick or treating,” whilst many parties are thrown throughout neighbourhoods.
Many games are played during these parties including Snap Apple which involves an apple on a string being tied to a doorframe or tree and players must try and take a bite from the fruit. Additionally, there’s bobbing for apples and treasure hunts, and the traditional food of barnbrack, a type of fruitcake, gets scoffed by the returning children with their bags of treats.
Until 1996 Halloween in France was unheard of, but today you can enjoy a traditional Halloween holiday in France practically anywhere in the country. Known as la fete d’Halloween, it’s seen largely as an American holiday but that doesn’t stop a vast number of fetes, parties, and people dressing up.
The event is fairly controversial in the country due to the influence commercial brands have had on the day. With it not regarded as a French holiday some people refuse to celebrate it but for those that do, they sure do it in style.
In Japan the Obon Festival is dedicated to deceased ancestors. It’s said that on this day the dead return to their birthplaces. During this period their memorial stones are cleaned and dances are performed throughout communities.
Special foods are prepared and lanterns are placed in the rivers and seas to float off in commemoration of their loved ones. However, this day does not fall on the last day of October, instead during the months of July or August.
Known as El Dia de los Muertos, Mexican Halloween is a three-day celebration and honours family and friends who have died over the years. During this period, it is said that the dead return to their homes and sees many families construct altars, decorating it with flowers and photographs as well as the favourite food and drink of their loved ones.
Usually on November 2, the families will also tend to the gravesite, tidying their plots before having a picnic on the site. Over the three days there is a real festival atmosphere and one of the most interesting times of the year to visit the country.
The Ghost Festival doesn’t take place on October 31, but on the 15th night of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. Named Ghost Day, it sees the spirits of dead relatives set free where they are said to visit the living.
Like in Mexico, friends and families pay homage to their loved ones with food offerings, burning incense, and papier-mâché offerings of their favourite material items. Food would be served to empty seats where the deceased will sit.
Across the country live performances are held to entertain the ghosts including musical offeriings, dramas, Chinese opera creating a real celebratory evening and climax to the festival.
The day following Halloween is Allerheiligen, a public holiday in German where post offices, banks, and schools close to honour the dead. Traditionally many will visit grave sites and decorate stones, whilst people also put away their knives in order to not risk harm to or from the ghosts who have been set free.
Over the years, Halloween in Germany has become more Americanised and you will also find the usual pumpkins, fancy dress, and trick or treat candy right across the country.