Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays, and people all around the globe celebrate it in their own way.
In Ireland, where Halloween originally came from, children get in costumes, go trick-or-treating, and attend parties. Barnbrack (fruitcake) is a traditional Irish food eaten on this holiday. A treat is baked inside the cake as a type of fortune-telling game . For example, if you find a ring it means you will soon get married. If you find a piece of straw, it means you’re going to have a good year. Snap Apple is a popular game in which an apple on a string is tied to a tree or doorframe and players try to bite the hanging apple. Another game is called Knock-a-Dolly. Children knock on someone’s door, but run away before the door is opened.
Many children in the United States and Canada also dress up in costume and go trick-or-treating in their communities. Carving Jack O’Lanterns and decorating homes with pumpkins, scarecrows, and corn stalks are other popular traditions.
In Scotland, children cut scary faces into hollowed-out turnips, rutabagas or potatoes and place a candle inside. Dockin’ for Apples is a game played at children’s Halloween parties. The idea is to grab apples that are floating in a tub of water using your mouth, with your hands tied behind you. Or, trying to catch the apples with a fork!
In the Czech Republic, All Souls’ Day is celebrated on November 2. Dusicky (“little souls”) is a day to honor the dead by visiting graves, lighting candles, and laying flowers.
In Germany, Halloween is celebrated as All Saints Day – honoring the saints, as well as family members who have died. People hide their knives to avoid harm to returning spirits. A popular Halloween site in Germany is at the 1,000 year old fortress ruins in Darmstadt known as Burg Frankenstein. (It is believed to be the castle that inspired the novel Frankenstein.) Carving pumpkins and dressing up in costumes are also gaining in popularity.
Austria celebrates Seleenwoche, or All Souls’ Week, from October 30 – November 8. It is a time to remember loved ones who have passed away. Before going to bed, people leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp on a table to welcome dead souls. The following day, families gather with lanterns to lead the dead to the graveyards. Church bells ring at noon, signaling the release of the souls to move on.
In Mexico, Latin American, and Spain, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), is celebrated from October 31 – November 2. Those who have passed away are honored. It is believed that the dead return to their homes on Halloween, so families burn candles and incense to guide them. Homes are decorated with pictures and flowers. Breads, candies, and other foods are in the shape of skulls and skeletons.
In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. It is celebrated on the 14th night of the seventh lunar month according to the Chinese calendar. People place food and water in front of photos of their loved ones that are no longer alive. Lanterns are lit to guide the spirits’ paths as they travel Earth on this night.