Halloween celebrations around the world definitely rival U.S. traditions on the creepy scale. While many traditions share common Western origins and are relatively similar to how we celebrate in the U.S., there are some pretty interesting variations. Below are some variations from various European countries and Mexico, along with some of our own commentary.
In Austria, people leave bread, water, and a lamp on a table before bedtime in hopes to welcome the dead souls back to earth. I think I might prefer to keep the lights off when being visited by a dead soul…
In Czech Republic, chairs for the departed are placed by the fireside on Halloween night and families remember the dead by eating special cakes and drinking cold milk to cool the souls roasting in Purgatory. How considerate of them to not forget those poor roasting souls!
In Germany, it’s common practice to put away knives on Halloween night to avoid injuring the returning spirits. It’s probably a good idea to do the same on Halloween, regardless of whether you believe you’ll be visited by returning spirits or not.
In Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, Samhain is an ancient pagan Celtic tradition and the origin for many Halloween traditions. It marked the last harvest and the beginning of “the dark season.” To celebrate, people would light large bonfires of make turnip lanterns, sometimes with faces carved out of it – the first jack-o-lanterns! Pumpkins seem like a more natural choice than turnips, glad we made that switch.
In Mexico, they celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) between October 31st and November 2nd to honor friends and relatives that have passed on. It is a festive and colorful event, where people visit cemeteries and decorate altars in their homes with ofrendas (offerings) filled with food and the deceased person’s favorite things, believing that the spirits will visit them and enjoy being remembered. It’s good to know that not all is lost to the spirits and they are thinking in a practical manner, as all that delicious food used to remember the deceased is then shared and eaten.
In the U.S., adults dress up in whatever is “hot” that year, ranging further from the traditional Halloween costumes of ghosts and witches. We’re just glad that Jersey Shore has lost a lot of its popularity…
What are some fun Halloween traditions that are unique to your family or heritage? Share by leaving a comment below. However you celebrate, have a safe and fun-filled Halloween!