24 Halloween traditions around the world

The spooky celebrations of Halloween are fast-approaching for another year. It seems that what was once just one day of festivities has grown into a huge event with a big build-up, similar to that of Christmas. Who doesn’t love the opportunity to dress up in a scary outfit, play silly games and attend special themed parties, competing for the award of best dressed? We may have picked up most of our Halloween traditions from the USA, but there are many other weird and wonderful Halloween traditions around the world. Here are 24 of the best:

1) Mexico

Celebration: Day of the Dead, 1 November
Sugar skulls, marigolds and other colourful offerings, such as people’s favourite food and drinks are given to lost loved ones during this celebration. It’s how people remember the lives of family and friends who have passed away.

2) Germany

Celebration: All Souls’ Week, 30 October – 8 November
Throughout this week, people stash away their knives in safe places so that spirits who come home to visit at this time won't get injured.

3) Austria

Celebration: All Souls’ Week, 30 October – 8 November
Bread and water are left out and a lamp on a table remains on at night to welcome the souls of any visiting relatives who have left this world.

Austria Halloween

4) Czech Republic

Celebration: Commemoration of All the Departed, 2 November
Families will leave empty chairs by the fire, to remember all their loved ones who have passed away.

5) China

Celebration: Teng Chieh (The Lantern Festival), 15th day of the first month (lunisolar year)
Families prepare a variety of traditional foods and offer them to their departed ancestors. Bonfires, lanterns and colourful hanging lights are lit on miniature paper boats, and lanterns on water are released to make way for the spirits.

6) China

Celebration: Festival of Hungry Ghosts, 15th night of the seventh Chinese month
Many people hold roadside fires where they burn fake money and other offerings for ghosts and ancestors to use in the afterlife. Food is also left out to satisfy the appetite of hungry ghosts. They believe that burning items such as fruit, money, and photographs appeases the spirits.

7) Nepal

Celebration: Gai Jatra, first day of the month of Bhadra on the lunar calendar
Tradition: Every family who’s lost a relative during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu, leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable, then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute.

Nepal Halloween

8) Japan

Celebration: Obon Festival, 15th day of the seventh lunar month
Tradition: On the first day of this festival, people bring fruit, lanterns and cakes to the graveyard. When the second day approaches, vegetarian dishes and usually cucumbers are put up for them. Lastly, when the third day approaches, people gather together to dance and paper lanterns are put on the sea or nearby river.

9) Cambodia

Celebration: Pchum Ben, 15th day of the tenth Khmer month
Tradition: During this period, the gates of hell are opened and ghosts of the dead (preta) are presumed to be especially active. In order to combat this, food offerings are made to benefit them.

10) Isle of Man

Celebration: Hop-tu-Naa, 31 October
Tradition: A proper Hop-tu-Naaer will have a hollowed-out turnip the size of a man's head, with flickering eyes and a jagged mouth, illuminated from within by a candle.

11) Haiti

Celebration: Fed Gede, 2 November
Tradition: People take part by lighting candles, journeying to their ancestors' burial places and drinking rum infused with chillies.

12) Ireland

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: One of the popular games on this day is tying an apple with a string on the doorframe and trying to take a bite out of it.

Ireland Halloween

13) Romania

Celebration: Feast of St. Andrew, 30 November
Tradition: Some Romanians bring out garlic to ward off ghosts, while others eat a special type of salty bread in the hope of dreaming of the person they’ll marry.

14) Hong Kong

Celebration: Double Ninth Festival, 28 October
Tradition: It’s customary to climb a high mountain, drink chrysanthemum liquor, and wear the zhuyu plant on this day.

15) Germany

Celebration: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, 1 November
Tradition: This is a silent holiday, which means that no dancing or loud music is allowed in public places for the duration of the day.

16) England

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: You're guaranteeing your own death if you look at your shadow in the moonlight on All Hallows’ Eve. Have you heard of this tradition before?

England Halloween

17) Scotland

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: The tradition in Scotland is to peel an apple and throw the peel behind you. It’s believed that the shape of the peel resembles the first letter in your future husband or wife's name.

18) Russia and Belgium

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: People in both Russia and Belgium are very wary of black cats on Halloween night. If one crosses your path that night, you’re unfortunately in for some bad luck.

19) Italy

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: Certain romantic Italian men also use this night to propose to their ladies, hiding the ring in a box of dead people’s beans. Would we call that romantic?

20) Poland

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: The Polish observe Halloween as a saint’s day and celebrate it by leaving the doors open, so as to welcome wandering spirits.

21) Ecuador

Celebration: Dia de los Difuntos, 2 November
Tradition: Ecuadorians make the traditional guaguas de panor bread babies. They’re freshly baked either by the family or in a bakery and bought to be eaten on this day. Colada Morada is the traditional beverage to accompany the bread babies.

22) Czech Republic and Slovakia

Celebration: All Saints’ Week, 30 October – 8 November
Tradition: Spitting and heavy work are still frowned upon on these dates, out of respect for the dead. Houses are cleaned, doors are left open, and food and toiletries are put out to welcome the dearly departed. Czechs and Slovaks toast the deceased with cold milk to cool the souls roasting in purgatory and place chairs by the fireside so that loved ones, from this world and the next, can sit and spend time together.

23) Sicily, Italy

Celebration: All Saints’ Day, 1 November
Tradition: Similar to Christmas, children wake to find candy and gifts believed to have been delivered, not by Santa, but the dead who rose from their graves.

24) Italy

Celebration: Halloween, 31 October
Tradition: The Italians cook up large, bean-shaped cakes, along with a whole feast for departed relatives. Then they throw open their doors and leave home to go to church, so that the dead can carb load for the Afterlife Winter Marathon.

If you enjoyed reading about these different Halloween traditions, you’ll love our 50 weird and worldly Halloween facts, full of different laws, traditions and haunted locations around the world.

How do you celebrate Halloween each year? Which is your favourite Halloween tradition from around the world? Let me know in the comments below.

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