Halloween around the world
Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise portrays a Halloween party in Blarney, Ireland, in 1832. The young children on the right bob for apples. A couple in the center play “Snap-Apple,” which involves retrieving an apple hanging from a string. The couples at left play divination games.
Halloween is a significant cultural event in Ireland; it is widely celebrated. It is known in Irish as Oche Shamhna (Irish pronunciation: [ih haun] ee-hah how-nah), literally “Samhain Night.” In the Irish language, Samhain is the name for the month of November. Pre-Christian Celts had an autumn festival, Samhain (Irish pronunciation: [saun], from the Old Irish samain), “End of Summer,” a pastoral and agricultural “fire festival” or feast, when the dead revisited the mortal world and large communal bonfires would hence be lit to ward off evil spirits. Costumes and masks being worn at Halloween goes back to the Celtic traditions of attempting to copy the evil spirits or placate them. Samhnag Candle lanterns carved from turnips, were part of the traditional festival. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows, also used to ward off harmful spirits.
Pope Gregory IV standardized the date of All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, on November 1 in the name of the entire Western Church in 837. As the Church day began at sunset, the holiday coincided exactly with Samhain. It is claimed that the choice of date was consistent with the common practice of leaving pagan festivals and buildings intact (e.g., the Pantheon) while overlaying a Christian meaning, however no reliable documentation indicates such a motivation in this case. While the Celts might have been content to move All Saints’ Day from their own previous date of April 20, the rest of the world celebrating it on May 13, it is speculated without evidence that they were unwilling to give up their preexisting autumn festival of the dead and continued to celebrate Samhain.
On Halloween night, adults and children dress up as creatures from the underworld (e.g., ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, and goblins), light bonfires, and enjoy spectacular fireworks displays in particular, the city of Derry is home to the largest organized Halloween celebration on the island, in the form of a street carnival and fireworks display. It is also common for fireworks to be set off for the entire month preceding Halloween as well as a few days after. Halloween was perceived as the night during which the division between the world of the living and the otherworld was blurred so that spirits of the dead and inhabitants from the underworld were able to walk free on the earth. It was believed necessary to dress as a spirit or otherworldly creature when venturing outdoors to blend in, and this is where dressing in such a manner for Halloween comes from. This gradually evolved into trick-or-treating, because children would knock on their neighbours’ doors in order to gather fruit, nuts, and sweets for the Halloween festival. Salt was once sprinkled in the hair of the children to protect against evil spirits.
Typical Halloween scene in Dublin, Ireland.
Houses are frequently adorned with pumpkins, or traditional turnip carved into scary faces; lights or candles are sometimes placed inside the carvings, resulting in an eerie effect. The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barmbrack, which is a fruit bread. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence), and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, “to beat one’s wife with,” would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be married within the year. Commercially produced barmbracks for the Halloween market still include a toy ring.
Games are often played, such as bobbing for apples, in which apples, peanuts, and other nuts and fruit and some small coins are placed in a basin of water. The apples and nuts float, but the coins, which sink, are harder to catch. Everyone takes turns catching as many items possible using only their mouths. In some households, the coins are embedded in the fruit for the children to “earn” as they catch each apple. Another common game involves the hands-free eating of an apple hung on a string attached to the ceiling. Games of divination are also played at Halloween, but are becoming less popular.
Lunchtime (the midday meal, sometimes called “dinner” in Ireland), on Halloween is called Colcannon.Babou
Halloween celebration in France began in 1997 on behalf of selling companies but hasn’t caught up. Popularity peaked in 2000, but declined after that. In 2006, many French newspapers wrote on the death of Halloween. It was purely commercial, and overlapped with the Toussaint day (Catholic festival) that takes place November 1st.
Scotland, having a shared Gaelic culture with Ireland, has celebrated the festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-win) robustly for many centuries. The autumn festival is pre-Christian Celtic in origin, and is known in Scottish Gaelic as Oidhche Shamhna, the “Summer’s night.” During the fire festival, souls of the dead wander the Earth and are free to return to the mortal world until dawn. Traditionally, bonfires and lanterns (samhnag in Scottish Gaelic) would be lit to ward off the phantoms and evil spirits that emerge at midnight. The term Samhainn or Samhuinn is used for the harvest feast, and an t-Samhain is used for the entire month of November.
As in Ireland, the exact customs involved with celebrating Halloween from ancient times to pre-industrialised Scotland are lost and lack primary documentation to distinguish the ancient customs from the modern counterpart. The Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed in the 1950s. The name Halloween is first attested in the 16th century as a Scottish shortening of the fuller All-Hallows-Even, that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns, portrayed some of the customs in his poem “Hallowe’en” (1785).
Halloween was seen as the time when the division between the world of the living and the otherworld was blurred. Many of the traditional customs derive from ancient divination practices and ways of trying to predict the future. By the 18th century, most of the customs were methods for young people to search for their future husbands or wives. As Samhainn was originally a harvest festival, many of these practices are connected with food or the harvest and fertility. One old custom associated with the Western Isles was to put two large nuts in the hearth of a peat fire to represent the person and his or her intended spouse. If the nuts curled together when they warmed up, it was deemed to be a good omen; but if they jumped apart, then it was time to look for another sweetheart. Islanders from Lewis traditionally poured ale into the sea as a libation to a marine God called “Seonaidh,” or “Shoney,” on Celtic Samhain or Halloween so that he would send seaweed to the shore to fertilise the fields for the coming year. Seonadh in Scottish Gaelic means sorcery, augury, or Druidism, and it is possible that the custom of Shonaidh is the direct link to an ancient form of Celtic god worship that has been Christianised. As “Seonaidh,” which is Gaelic “Johnny,” it may also be a reference to one of St. John and an invocation of him.
Fire rituals were also important. Great bonfires were lit in villages or by individual families, with the resultant ashes being used to form a circle. One stone for each member of the household was kept inside this circle near the circumference. If any stone were displaced or seemed broken by next morning, the person to whom that stone belonged was believed to be destined to die within a year. A similar rite in northern Wales includes a great bonfire called Coel Coeth, built for each family on Halloween; later, the members of the household threw a white stone marked in their name into the ashes. Upon the next morning, all the stones were searched for, and if any stone was missing, the person who threw that stone was believed to be destined to die before next Halloween. In particular, the village of Fortingall, in Perthshire, held festivities on Crn na Marbh, “Mound of the Dead.” This was the focal point of a Samhain festival. A great fire, or “Samhnag,” was lit atop it each year. The whole community took hands when it was blazing and danced around the mound, both sunwise and antisunwise. As the fire began to wane, some of the younger boys took burning embers from the flames and ran throughout the field with them, finally throwing them into the air and dancing over them as they lay glowing on the ground. When the last embers were showing, the boys would have a leaping competition across the remains of the fire, reminiscent of the Beltane festival. When it was finished, the young people went home to duck for apples and practise divination. There was no Scottish tradition of “guising” here, the bonfire being the absolute centre of attention until it was consumed. The Samhain celebrations here apparently came to an end relatively early, in 1925.
In Scotland, folklore, including that of Halloween, revolves around the ancient Celtic belief in faeries (Sidhe, or Sith, in modern Gaelic). Children who ventured out carried a traditional lantern (samhnag) with a devil face carved into it to frighten away the evil spirits. Such Halloween lanterns were made from a turnip, or “Neep” in Lowland Scots, with a candle lit in the hollow inside. In modern times, however, such lanterns use pumpkins, as in North American traditions, possibly because it is easier to carve a face into a pumpkin than into a turnip. Due to this, the practice of hollowing out pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns may have its roots in this practice.
Houses were also protected with the same candle lanterns. If the spirits got past the protection of the lanterns, the Scottish custom was to offer the spirits parcels of food to leave and spare the house another year. Children, too, were given the added protection by disguising them as such creatures in order to blend in with the spirits. If children approached the door of a house, they were also given offerings of food (Halloween being a harvest festival), which served to ward off the potential spirits that may lurk among them. This is where the origin of the practice of Scottish “guising” (a word that comes from “disguising”), arose, with the tradition of children going from door to door in costume. It is now a key feature of the tradition of trick-or-treating practised in North America.
In modern-day Scotland, this old tradition survives, chiefly in the form of children going door to door “guising” in this manner; that is, dressed in a disguise (often as a witch, ghost, monster, or another supernatural being) and offering entertainment of various sorts. If the entertainment is enjoyed, the children are rewarded with gifts of sweets, fruits, or money., There is no Scottish trick-or-treat tradition as in North America; on the contrary, trick or treating is an outgrowth of these Scottish guising customs.
Popular games played on the holiday include “dunking” for apples (i.e., retrieving an apple from a bucket of water using only one’s mouth). In some places, the game has been replaced (because of fears of contracting saliva-borne illnesses in the water) by standing over the bowl holding a fork in one’s mouth and releasing it in an attempt to skewer an apple using only gravity. Another popular game is attempting to eat, while blindfolded, a treacle- or jam-coated scone on a piece of string hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes the blindfold is left out, because it is already difficult to eat the scone. In all versions, however, the participants cannot use their hands.
In 2007, Halloween festival organisers in Perthshire said they wanted to move away from U.S.-style celebrations in favour of more culturally accurate traditions. Plans include abandoning the use of pumpkins and reinstating traditional activities, such as a turnip lantern competition and dooking (ducking) for apples.
Isle of Man
The Manx traditionally celebrate Hop-tu-Naa on October 31; this ancient Celtic tradition has parallels in Irish and Scottish traditions.
All Saints’ Day (All Hallows Day) became fixed on 1 November in 835, and All Souls’ Day on 2 November, circa 998. On All Souls’ Eve, families stayed up late, and little “soul cakes” were eaten by everyone. At the stroke of midnight, there was solemn silence among households, which had candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes and a glass of wine on the table to refresh them. The tradition of giving soul cakes that originated in Britain and Ireland was known as souling, often seen as the origin of modern Trick or Treating in North America, and souling continued in areas of northern England as late as the 1930s, with children going from door to door singing songs and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes or money. The English Reformation in the 16th century de-emphasised holidays like All Hallows Day or All Souls Day and their associated eves.
A Halloween party in The United Kingdom
In parts of northern England, there is a traditional festival called Mischief Night, which falls on the 30th of October. During the celebration, children play a range of “tricks” (ranging from minor to more serious) on adults. One of the more serious tricks might include the unhinging of garden gates (which were often thrown into ponds or moved far away). In recent years, such acts have occasionally escalated to extreme vandalism, sometimes involving street fires.
Bobbing for apples is a well-established association with Halloween. In the game, attempts are made (using only one’s mouth) to catch an apple placed in a water-filled barrel. Once an apple is caught, it is sometimes peeled and tossed over the shoulder in the hope that the strips would fall into the shape of a letter, which would be the first initial of the participant’s true love.
Other traditions include making toffee apples and apple tarts. Apple tarts may be baked with a coin hidden inside, and nuts of all types are traditional Halloween fare.
There has been increasing concern about the potential for antisocial behaviour, particularly among older teenagers, on Halloween. Cases of houses being “egg-bombed” or having lit fireworks posted through the letterbox (especially when the occupants do not give money or gifts) have been reported, and the BBC reported that for Halloween 2006, police forces stepped up patrols to respond to such mischief.
In Welsh, Halloween is known as Nos Calan Gaeaf (the beginning of the new winter; see Calan Gaeaf). Spirits are said to walk around (as it is an Ysbrydnos, or “spirit night”), and a “white lady” ghost is sometimes said to appear. Bonfires are lit on hillsides to mark the night.
In many urban areas, principally South Wales, Welsh children Trick or Treat, as per the American custom. Halloween parties and events are common place.
Coelcerth: Families build a fire and place stones with their names on it. The person whose stone is missing the next morning would die within the year.
Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta: Legend has it that a fearsome spirit called Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta took the form of a tail-less black sow and roamed the countryside with a headless woman. Children would rush home early.
Eiddiorwg Dalen: A few leaves of ground ivy is thought to give you the power to see hags. For prophetic dreams a boy should cut ten ivy leaves, throw away one and put the rest under his head before he sleeps. A girl should take a wild rose grown into a hoop, creep through it three times, cut it in silence, and go to bed with it under her pillow.
Teiliwr: In Glamorgan tailors were associated with witchcraft. They supposedly possessed the power to ewitch anybody if they wished.
Canada and USA
Halloween is largely celebrated in the same manner between the two countries of Canada and the United States. In the United States, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays, Halloween did not become a holiday until the 19th century. American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays. The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine (18451849) finally brought the holiday to the United States. Scottish emigration, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country. At the time of substantial Irish and Scottish immigration to North America in the late 19th century, Halloween had a strong tradition of “guising” children in Ireland and Scotland disguised in costumes going from door to door requesting food or coins. The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street “guising” on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs.
American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts, wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the US; The Book of Hallowe’en (1919), and references souling in the chapter Hallowe’en in America; “All Hallowe’en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries. The taste in Hallowe’en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burn’s poem Hallowe’en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe’en is out of fashion now”. The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door to door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling “Trick or treat!” to solicit a gift of candy or similar items.
Irish-American and Scottish-American societies held dinners and balls that celebrated their heritages, with perhaps a recitation of Robert Burns’ poem “Halloween” or a telling of Irish legends, much as Columbus Day celebrations were more about Italian-American heritage than Columbus per se. Home parties centred on children’s activities, such as apple bobbing, and various divination games often concerning future romance. Not surprisingly, pranks and mischief were common as well.
At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween had turned into a night of vandalism, with destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people. Around 1912, the Boy Scouts, Boys Clubs, and other neighborhood organizations came together to encourage a safe celebration that would end the destruction that had become so common on this night. School posters during this time called for a “Sane Halloween.” Children began to go door to door, receiving treats, rather than playing tricks on their neighbors. This helped to reduce the mischief, and by the 1930s, “beggar’s nights” had become very popular. Trick-or-treating became widespread by the end of the 1930s.
The commercialization of Halloween in the United States did not start until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween postcards (featuring hundreds of designs), which were most popular between 1905 and 1915. Dennison Manufacturing Company (which published its first Halloween catalog in 1909) and the Beistle Company were pioneers in commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper items. German manufacturers specialised in Halloween figurines that were exported to the United States in the period between the two World Wars.
Community Halloween party in Frazier Park, California.
Mass-produced Halloween costumes did not appear in stores until the 1930s, and trick-or-treating did not become a fixture of the holiday until the 1950s. In the 1990s, many manufacturers began producing a larger variety of Halloween yard decorations; before this, the majority of decorations were homemade. Some of the most popular yard decorations are jack-o’-lanterns, scarecrows, witches, orange string lights, inflatable decorations such as spiders, pumpkins, mummies and vampires, and animatronic window and door decorations. Other popular decorations are foam tombstones and gargoyles.
Halloween is now the United States’ second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating; the sale of candy and costumes is also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular Halloween costume themes for adults are, in order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat, and clown. Each year, popular costumes are dictated by various current events and pop culture icons. On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest October 31 hosting many costume parties.
Four contestants in the Halloween Slick Chick beauty contest in Anaheim, California, 1947
The National Confectioners Association reported in 2005 that 80 percent of American adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters, and that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.
Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsinadison, hosts one of the more infamous annual Halloween celebrations. Due to the large influx of out-of-towners crowding the State Street area, riots have broken out in recent years, resulting in the use of mounted police and tear gas to disperse the crowds. Likewise, Chapel Hill, NC, site of the University of North Carolina, has a notorious downtown street party which in 2007 drew a crowd estimated at 80,000 on downtown Franklin Street, in a town with a population of just 54,000. In 2008, in an effort to curb the influx of out-of-towners, mayor Kevin Foy emplaced measures to make commuting downtown more difficult on Halloween.
Anoka, Minnesota, the self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World”, celebrates the holiday with a large civic parade and several other city-wide events. Salem, Massachusetts, also has laid claim to the “Halloween Capital” title, while trying to dissociate itself from its history of persecuting witchcraft. At the same time, however, the city does see a great deal of tourism surrounding the Salem witch trials, especially around Halloween. In the 1990s, the city added an official “Haunted Happenings” celebration to the October tourist season. Nearby Keene, New Hampshire, hosts the annual Pumpkin Fest each October which previously held the record for having the greatest number of lit jack-o’-lanterns at once. (Boston, Massachusetts holds the record as of October 2006). In Atlanta, Georgia, the Little Five Points neighborhood hosts the Little Five Points Halloween Parade on the weekend before October 31 each year.
Rutland, Vermont has hosted the annual Rutland Halloween Parade since 1960. Tom Fagan, a local comic book fan, is credited with having a hand in the parade’s early development and superhero theme. In the early 1970s, the Rutland Halloween Parade achieved a degree of fame when it was used as the setting of a number of superhero comic books, including Batman #237, Justice League of America #103, Amazing Adventures #16 and The Mighty Thor #207.
New York City hosts the United States’ largest Halloween celebration, known as The Village Halloween Parade. Started by Greenwich Village mask maker Ralph Lee in 1973, the evening parade now attracts over two million spectators and participants, as well as roughly four million television viewers annually. It is the largest participatory parade in the country if not the world, encouraging spectators to march in the parade as well. Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book on collective joy mentions this as an example of how Halloween is transitioning from a children’s holiday to an adult holiday and compares it to Mardi Gras.
In Detroit, Michigan, the night before Halloween is referred to as Devil’s Night, and for many years involved petty vandalism by children and teens, such as rubbing soap or wax on car windows or throwing eggs at houses. This activity perhaps started in the 1930s. In the 1970s, the minor vandalism gave way to serious acts of arson, and the city today mounts volunteer neighborhood patrols to prevent violence.
In many towns and cities, trick-or-treaters are welcomed by lit porch lights and jack-o’-lanterns. In some large and/or crime ridden areas, however, trick-or-treating is discouraged, or refocused to staged trick-or-treating events within nearby shopping malls, in order to prevent potential acts of violence against trick-or-treaters. Even where crime is not an issue, many American towns have designated specific hours for trick-or-treating, e.g., 57 pm or 58 pm, to discourage late-night trick-or-treating. After the September 11 terror attacks, trick-or-treating was discouraged in many areas. Some feared that terrorists would take the opportunity to attack trick-or-treaters, and others felt that celebrating Halloween so soon after the attacks seemed inappropriate. There were even fears of attacks on shopping malls after an anonymous email began circulating on the Internet that was allegedly written by a terrorist that alluded to planned attacks on shopping malls on October 31, 2001. This threat was revealed to be a hoax after an official FBI press release stating that the threat was deemed not credible.
Those living in the country may hold Halloween parties, often with bonfires, with the celebrants passing between them. The parties usually involve traditional games (like snipe hunting, bobbing for apples, or searching for candy in a similar manner to Easter egg hunting), haunted hayrides (often accompanied by scary stories, and costumed people hiding in the dark to jump out and scare the riders), and treats (usually a bag of candy and/or homemade treats). Scary movies may also be viewed. Normally, the children are picked up by their parents at predetermined times. However, it is not uncommon for such parties to include sleepovers.
Trick-or-treating may often end by early evening, but the nightlife thrives in many urban areas. Halloween costume parties provide an opportunity for adults to gather and socialize. Urban bars are frequented by people wearing Halloween masks and risqu costumes. Many bars and restaurants hold costume contests to attract customers to their establishments. Haunted houses are also popular in some areas.
In Western Canada, fireworks displays and a civic bonfire are part of the festivities. Fireworks are also held at Disneyland (as of 2009) and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom during an event at that park called Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party titled HalloWishes.
Halloween piatas and other decorations for sale at the Jamaica Market in Mexico City.
In Mexico, Halloween has been celebrated since roughly 1960. There, celebrations have been influenced by the American traditions, such as the costuming of children who visit the houses of their neighborhood in search of candy. Though the “trick-or-treat” motif is used, tricks are not generally played on residents not providing candy. Older crowds of preteens, teenagers and adults will sometimes organize Halloween-themed parties, which might be scheduled on the nearest available weekend. Usually kids stop by at peoples’ houses, knock on their door or the ring the bell and say “Noche de Brujas, Halloween!” (‘Witches’ Night, Halloween!’) or “Queremos Haloween!” (We want Halloween!). The second phrase is more commonly used among children, the affirmation of “We want Halloween” means “We want candy”, similarly “Me da mi calaverita” means “I want my little skull”.
Halloween in Mexico begins three days of consecutive holidays, as it is followed by All Saints’ Day, which also marks the beginning of the two day celebration of the Day of the Dead or the Da de los Muertos. This might account for the initial explanations of the holiday having a traditional Mexican-Catholic slant.
Despite many American media influences (including television sit-coms and The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror and its sequels), Halloween is frowned upon by some due to its having little relevance to Australian culture. It is also considered an unwanted American influence and an online poll conducted by News Limited has suggested that 84% of Australians are opposed to the event as “an event on the calendar”.. In 2006, costume shops reported a rise in sales on Halloween-themed costumes, on October 31, 2006 and have reported a steady increase on October 31, 2007. On Halloween night, horror films and horror-themed TV episodes are traditionally aired, and currently, Halloween private parties are more commonly held than actual “trick-or-treating”, however both are still observed. Trick or treating is generally only done in the trick-or-treater’s neighbourhood.
The children of the largest town in Bonaire gather together on Halloween day.
The Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, and Austria
Halloween has become increasingly popular in Belgium, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, and Austria since the early 1990s. From early October, stores are full of merchandise related to the popular Halloween themes. Students and little children dress up on Halloween for parties and small parades. Trick-or-treating is uncommon in these countries because children already engage in a similar practice to celebrate St. Martin’s Day, which takes place a few days after Halloween. On November 11, Dutch, Belgian, German, and Austrian children ring doorbells hoping to receive a small treat in return for singing a short song dedicated to St. Martin.
Halloween in Romania is celebrated around the myth of “Dracula” on October 31. In Transylvania and especially in the city of Sighioara, there are many costume parties, for teenagers and adults, that are created from the US model. Also the spirit of Dracula is believed to live there because the town was the site of many witch trials; these are recreated today by actors on the night of Halloween.
In Switzerland, Halloween is seen as being a pagan festival. After first becoming popular in 1999, Halloween is on the wane. People see it as an imported product from the United States, which has not recently enjoyed a good image in the country. Switzerland already has a “festival overload” and even though Swiss people like to dress up for any occasion, they do prefer a traditional element.
Ueli Mder, a professor of sociology at Basel University said that the Swiss adoption of Halloween about ten years ago Swiss shops stocked Halloween costumes and masks for the first time in 1999 came from “a need for rituals”. “In a strongly commercialised world a need arises for meaningful experiences. I can imagine that a ritual like Halloween when it is celebrated in a simple genuine way can satisfy that need.” But he added: “It also took on an exaggerated or extreme form for a while which probably turned some people off. Perhaps is there is a need to bring Halloween back to a more simple level.”
In the traditional culture of some regions of Italy there were until the last century traditions very similar to Halloween, i.e. beliefs about nocturnal visiting and processions of dead people, preparation of special biscuits and carving jack-o’-lanterns.
Particularly between 1630 and 1640 the Catholic Church carried on a campaign to suppress surviving pagan traditions connected to All Saints’ Day and its eve. These feasts vanished completely; until the mid-1970s the festivity was completely unknown by the people, in 1979 just 1 million of people on a population of 57 million declared celebrating Halloween.
Between the 20th and 21st centuries, however, Halloween was popularized principally by television and merchandising coming from United States, including sitcom episodes such as The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror (trick-or-treat’s translation as “Dolcetto o Scherzetto”, literally treat-or-joke, appeared first in dubbed sitcoms). As a result, in 1989 4 million declared celebrating it, in 1999 7 million and in 2009 10 million, turning Halloween in Italy into a major festivity that outclasses the Catholic ones among Italian children.
Halloween traditions are mostly based on US tradition, but even then not completely for example the story of Jack-o’-lantern is not widely known, and people talk simply of the “zucca di Halloween” (“Halloween pumpkin”). Some children trick-or-treat and they dress up as skeletons, zombies, devils etc., though most elderly people still do not understand the children’s request. Teens, instead, celebrate the festivity disguising themselves as horror characters, throwing away eggs, spraying foam and doing dirty tricks on each other.
In Denmark children go trick-or-treating, even though they already collect candy from neighbors on Fastelavn, the Danish name for the Carnival which occurs before Lent.
Central and South America
In most parts of Central and South America, kids will pay a visit to their neighbors and yell “Dulce o Truco!” (‘Sweet or Trick!’) in order to get candy, while in Brazil kids yell “Doce ou Travessura!”. The Spanish name for Halloween is Noche de Brujas (Night of the Witches), and the Portuguese name is Dia das Bruxas.
In Norway Halloween has become very popular, and most toy stores etc. have big sales and massive campaigns. Children go trick-or-treating, but it is much more common to not perform a trick, only ringing the door bell and asking for candy.
Halloween has become increasingly popular among the new generation in Finland. Teenagers like to wear costums and have Halloween-themed parties.
Arab Christians (Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank/Gaza)
Arab Christians in Lebanon, Syria and West Bank celebrate Saint Barbara’s Day or Eid il-Burbara on December 4 in a style somewhat reminiscent of Halloween celebrations in other countries. Children wear costumes and go trick-or-treating whilst singing a song. The traditional food for the occasion is Burbara, a bowl of boiled barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar offered to masquerading children. Lebanese Christians believe that Saint Barbara disguised herself as numerous characters to elude the Romans who were persecuting her.
Qarqe’an is a similar holiday celebrated in Kuwait and other Gulf states. The scary theme is not a part of the tradition: children dress in traiditional garb, form groups, carry baskets and sing outside of homes, receiving sweets and nuts for their effort.
Halloween has become popular only recently in Japan, mainly in the context of American pop culture. Western-style Halloween decorations such as jack-o’-lanterns can be seen in many locations, and places such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan put on special Halloween events. The wearing of costumes is mostly limited to private home parties, day care centers and kindergartens, as well as in larger cities at bars frequented or run by foreigners. On a national scale trick-or-treating is largely unpracticed.
Halloween in Hong Kong has two traditions. The first involves the event called “Yue Lan” (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts). It is less of celebration, but rather an opportunity to give gifts to spirits of the dead to provide comfort and ward them off.
The second and more commericalized event is celebrated by expatriate Americans or Canadians. Disney Hong Kong and Ocean Park (Halloween Bash) host annual Halloween shows. Lan Kwai Fong bars will be decked out with Halloween decorations to lure expats and locals interest in Halloween.
While trick or treating is not celebrated in Hong Kong, there are events at Tsim Sha Tsui’s Avenue of the Stars that try to mimic the celebration.
Halloween has become very popular among the new generation only recently mainly in the context of American pop culture. There are western style decorations like jack-o’-lanterns, trick-or-treating and costume parties etc. Many people collect all the candy and donate it to the poor. In India, Halloween is considered as more of a social event.
In the Philippines they celebrate a holiday called Undas or Araw ng mga Patay (Day of the Dead) on November 1st or November 2nd. Recently the habit of trick or treating has become popular in urban areas, especially the Metro Manila area, but on a national scale, it is not largely practiced.
In Saint Helena Halloween is actively celebrated, largely along the American model, with ghosts, skeletons, devils, vampires, witches and the like. Imitation pumpkins are used as the season is wrong for real ones. Trick-or-treating is widespread. Party venues provide entertainment for adults.
^ a b Rogers, Nicholas. (2002). “Coming Over: Halloween in North America” Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. pp.49-77. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516896-8.
^ Campbell, John Gregorson (1900, 1902, 2005). The Gaelic Otherworld. Black, Ronald (Ed.), pp.55962. Edinburgh: Birlinn. ISBN 1-84158-207-7.
^ a b Arnold, Bettina (2001-10-31). “Bettina Arnold Halloween Lecture: Halloween Customs in the Celtic World”. Halloween Inaugural Celebration. University of Wisconsinilwaukee: Center for Celtic Studies. http://www.uwm.edu/~barnold/lectures/holloween.html. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
^ “BBC Religion & Ethicsallowe’en”. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/halloween.shtml. Retrieved 2007-03-14.
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^ a b Rogers, Nicholas. (2002) “Festive Rights:Halloween in the British Isles”. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. p.48. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195146913
^ Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt (1998) Forerunners to HalloweenPelican Publishing Company. ISBN 1565543467 p.44
^ Pumpkins have been banned from a Halloween festival in favour of a more Scottish-style celebration accessed 27-10-2007
^ Roger, Nichola (2002). Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. Oxford University Press. pp. 2830. ISBN 0-19-514691-3.
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^ Rogers, p. 49.
^ Rogers, Nicholas. (2002) “Coming Over:Halloween in North America”. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. p.76. Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0195146913
^ Ruth Edna Kelley, The Book of Hallowe’en, Boston: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Co., 1919, chapter 15, “Hallowe’en in America.”
^ The New York Institute for Special Education
^ Heddon. “deliriumsrealm.com A Brief History of Halloween in America” Deliriumsrealm.com. 10 September, 2007.
^ Anderson, Richard (2000). “Antique Halloween Postcards and E-cards”. shaktiweb.com. http://www.shaktiweb.com/postcards/. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
^ Dawn Kroma; Lou Kroma (n.d.). “Beistle: An American Halloween Giant”. Spookshows.com. http://www.spookshows.com/beistle/beistle.htm. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
^ Ledenbach, Mark B. (n.d.). “A Brief History of Halloween Collectibles”. halloweencollector.com. http://www.halloweencollector.com/history/. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
^ 2006 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. Washington, DC: The National Retail Federation.
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^ Halloween in Transylvania, Romania
^ Halloween retailers get a shock
^ Particularly in Friuli, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Liguria but also in some southern localities as in Tuscany, Northern Latium, Campania, Molise and specifically Sardinia.
^ Boland, Rory (October 6, 2009). “Trick or Treat Halloween in Hong Kong”. About.com. http://gohongkong.about.com/b/2009/10/06/halloween-in-hong-kong.htm. Retrieved 31 October, 2009.
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^ “Entertainment & Events” (PDF 4.1 MB). St Helena Independent. Saint FM. 30 October, 2009. Retrieved 30 October, 2009.
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Related Days and times
All Saints Allantide Beggars Night Day of the Dead Devil’s Night Eid il-Burbara Hop-tu-Naa Koroksun Mischief night Samhain
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