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Halloween Around the World: A Look at Other Traditions

Not everyone dresses up and asks for candy!

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When you think of Halloween, you probably envision spooky costumes, bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating. While these are typical American traditions, other countries have some different ways to celebrate the holiday, honor the dead, or protect themselves from ghosties and otherworldly visitors.

Halloween Around the World

Ireland and Scotland: Samhain

Samhain is the ancient Celtic and Pagan festival that celebrates the end of the light half of the year, or summer months. Today it is celebrated with bonfires and games. Traditional foods such as the barmbrack are served. Barmbrack is an Irish fruitcake that might be a bit tricky to eat since they contain noneditable items such as buttons, rings, and coins. The additions are used for fortunetelling so if your cake had coins in it, for example, then that would mean wealth was coming your way in the next year; a ring means marriage is on the horizon.

Mexico: Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated on November 1 and November 2 in honor of those who have died. According to the tradition, the Gates of Heaven open up at midnight on October 31, allowing the souls of children to return to Earth to their families – but only for 24 hours. On November 2, the souls of adults are allowed to join in the festivities.

Romania: Day of Dracula

Halloween and spooky adventures just wouldn’t be the same without a vampire in the mix. In Romania, where Dracula is believed to have lived, people gather to tour Bran Castle in Transylvania, where it is rumored Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes at least visited at one time. Tours are provided and the adventurous can even hold parties at Count Dracula’s castle.

The Philippines: Pangangaluluwa

Although trick-or-treating is the modern form of the Pangangaluluwa, there are still some areas where the traditional door-to-door visits are conducted. Instead of asking for candy, children dress in costumes, sing, and ask for prayers for those stuck in purgatory.

Hong Kong: The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival is held between August and September, on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. Restless spirits start to roam the world during this time and to assuage them, the festival “feeds” the spirits with food and money, items the ghosts need for the afterlife.

In some countries, this is a time to remember loved ones who have passed and not so much about ghosts, vampires, or other scary happenings. In Cambodia, from the end of September through the middle of October, Buddhist families celebrate Pchum Ben, which is a religious holiday to celebrate the dead. People visit temples and offer food and baskets of flowers as a symbol of respect to their ancestors that have passed on. And in Italy, November 1 is known as All Saints’ Day, or Ognissanti. People leave fresh flowers on graves of loved ones and strangers alike and then at sunset, place a red candle in the window and set a place at the dinner table in the hopes of a visit from a beloved spirit.

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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