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Halloween Around the World: It Isn’t Just Costumes and Candy

Traditions this spooky time of year vary from place to place.

By:  |  October 31, 2023  |    431 Words
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Participants the Day of the Dead in Mexico City. (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

When you think of Halloween, you probably imagine spooky costumes, bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating. While these are typical American traditions, other countries have some different ways to celebrate this time of year.

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 it contains an inedible item such as a button, ring, or coin. The person who finds this extra ingredient is thought to be lucky.

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Portrait of Vlad Tepes, from a painting in Castle Ambras. (Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images)

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. Count Dracula is believed to be based on the figure of Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes, a ruler in medieval Romania.

People gather to tour Bran Castle in Transylvania, where it was once thought Vlad was imprisoned. Tours are provided and the adventurous can even hold parties at the castle.

The Philippines: Pangangaluluwa

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People burn paper offerings mark the Hungry Ghost Festival (Photo by Dustin Shum/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

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. Also known as All Saints Day, people visit the graves and tombs of their deceased relatives to pay their respects.

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.

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