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Halloween Celebrations Throughout the World

Halloween is one of the World’s oldest holidays. The name Halloween is a Scottish contraction, derived from the proper name “All Hallow’s Eve.” It was named such because it falls on the night before the Catholic “All Hallows” day, or, “All Hallowed Souls” day. Halloween is also known as the Day of the Dead. Throughout the world, many countries celebrate Halloween, each in their own unique ways.


In Austria it was once believed that leaving bread and water on a table with a lit lamp would help welcome dead souls back to Earth on this powerfully cosmic night.


In Spain, a pastry named Bones of the Holy, shaped like skulls, is eaten on Halloween day. It contains anise seed and is covered with an orange glaze. Children play tricks for treats. Later on, families go to the cemetery to visit deceased family members where they remain, keeping vigil throughout the night. The next day is spent cleaning the family burial plots.


In Japan, water and food is placed in front of a photo of the dead, then lanterns are lit and set afloat in the water or next to a body of water to light the way of the dead souls back to Earth and to show them where their families can be found. It is called the Obon Festival, and it is a celebration of the memory of the dead.


German households put away all knives on Halloween night, so that the spirits returning to Earth will not be accidentally hurt during the celebrations. Cemeteries are cleaned and wreaths and lanterns are placed at family grave sites.


In Italy it is custom to set a bountiful table and then leave the house open while spending the day in church praying for the souls of the dead. They pray, hoping that the dead will return and consume the food that is left for them. One traditional food made for this day is a bread or cookie baked in commemoration of the dead called Fave dei morti (Italian for Bones of the Dead). It is made with almonds, pine nuts, sugar, eggs, and flour and shaped into large beans.


In Mexico, Halloween is celebrated with picnics, often had at the graves of dead relatives. Children run in the streets asking for coins and candy shaped as coffins or a skull and crossbones. Lanterns are hung outdoors, fireworks shows add a spectacular glow, and bonfires are ablaze. It is a very happy and festive occasion.


In Russia, blue cats, such as the Russian Blue, Burmese, and British Blue, are said to bring good luck on this day.


Ireland has celebrated Halloween for centuries. It is said that the practice of carving and lighting Jack-o’-lanterns started there. A man named “Stingy Jack” was said to be too mean to be let into heaven, but because he played so many tricks on the devil, he was also not welcomed into the netherworld. With nowhere to go after he died, “Stingy Jack” was destined to walk the earth for all eternity carrying a carved-out turnip with a glowing lump of coal inside. Soon people began making their own Jack-o’-lanterns to sit in front windows and porches to scare away Stingy Jack’s ghost.


Scotland also shares the legend of “Stingy Jack.” They hollow out turnips or potatoes and set a lit candle inside. Soul Cakes or Dirge Loaves made out of oat flour are made in hopes of keeping the souls of the dead safe.

North America

The North American Halloween is a popular celebration. Jack-o’-lanterns are made by hollowing out pumpkins, then a face is carved and a candle is set inside. Children dress in costumes and go door to door asking for treats by chanting rhymes like “Trick or Treat,” “Halloween Apples,” or “Shell out, shell out, the witches are out.” It was once believed that on this night, souls who had not yet crossed over into the next world would come back to walk the streets, visiting their old haunts.


India celebrates Mahalaya, which is a religious ritual believed to awaken dead spirits. Following Mahalaya, it is believed the souls go back to a peaceful rest for the remainder of the year. When night falls, the people pray for help against evil spirits.

With Halloween so near, I would now like to wish you all a Happy Halloween wherever you live in the world.

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User Comments
  1. Pat

    On October 9, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Sandi

    On October 9, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Very interesting. It is fun to learn about the traditions of other countries.
    Good work Darlene.

  3. IcyCucky

    On October 9, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    It is such an entertaining, and educating article, Darlene. I enjoy it very much.
    Great, great job!

  4. Lucy Lockett

    On October 9, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Thank you Darlene for an interesting article! I learned new things!

  5. Onflame

    On October 10, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Wow, awesome article! It is really interesting to know about cultures from around the world. However, in India:

    1. Mahalaya isn’t celebrated all over India.
    2. It isn’t exactly related to Halloween

    Otherwise, Great work,

  6. greg

    On October 10, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    North America isn’t a country.

  7. Bery

    On October 10, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Also, in Mexico people create an “altar” (as shown on the pic above) with a picture of the deceased relative(s) and foods, alcoholic beverages, cigaretts and any other things that they liked when alive. The flower used to decorate the altar is called “Cempazuchil” and also with delicate tissue paper (call “chinese paper”) cut into elaborate designs. In many institutions like schools and universities there are even altar contests.

  8. Picky Picky

    On October 10, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    I think what the author meant was the US and Canada for North America. They both celebrate the same way. Isn’t there anything better you can go than try to pick holes in other people’s work??
    It’s so childish.

    Great work, Darlene. I enjoyed reading this.

  9. Darlene McFarlane

    On October 10, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Onflame thanks for setting my mistake straight. I realized after I submitted the article that I submitted the first copy.

  10. Edley

    On October 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm


  11. deviant

    On October 10, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Just cause your family doesnt do it does not mean others dont…

    Russia has some unique concepts

  12. mmagic

    On October 10, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    it doesn’t have to be on the same day it can be on a different day as an example Lebanon is in november they celebrates it as all saints day not haloween (or Berbara ) wich is dec 3rd , but the concept is exactly the same where kids ask for candy and go door to door
    russia might have the concept but not the name
    For the author of this article very intersting but i would have also added the day it is celebrated and the name of the celebration , as they are not all called haloween. dios the los muertos is the mexican version and it hapens on Nov 1 and 2

  13. lanne

    On October 10, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Good Stuff. Don`t you wish you had have done this article 30 years ago…so you could scare the witts out of us??

  14. Geordie Janner

    On October 10, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Great stuff. Really enjoyed reading it.
    Brought back memories of when I used to hollow out Turnips for lanterns when I was a kid – maybe that’s why I don’t like eating Turnips as an adult!


  15. lox

    On October 10, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    by greg, Oct 10, 2007
    “North America isn’t a country. “

    Quiet! You… Canada person. ^_-

  16. Carol Aster oct. 9 2007

    On October 10, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    T his is intresting i will show it to my 7 year old grandson.
    I love it.

  17. Carol Aster oct. 9 2007

    On October 10, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    T his is intresting i will show it to my 7 year old grandson.
    I love it.

  18. anwar vazquez

    On October 10, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I need to make a point about the celebration in México. Here we don’t celebrate Halloween, we celebrate “El Día de Muertos” the 1st and the 2nd of November. This tradition has nothing to do with the Halloween.
    The altar is supposed to honor persons we love, usually are parents, grandparents, family in general and the things we put in are all those the dead person loved in live. So if we put beer int he altar it means the persons loved beer.
    Also, we make visit to the cemetery to clean the tombs, and make some prayers there. In some places here in Mexico, the ppl usually stay there all day and night with a celebration because we believe is the days when deads come to earth to hang on with us.
    Sorry for my really bad English.

  19. Darlene McFarlane

    On October 10, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Anwar Vazquez, thank you so much for your information. I appreciate hearing the true story from those who know it best.

    Your English is great and your made yourself understood perfectly.

  20. Katizzle

    On October 10, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    That’s hella awesome, I never really learned about other countries Halloweens, besides Mexico since I took Spanish. I didn’t even know about two of the things people say in North America, Must be the Canadians x]

  21. Gregor

    On October 11, 2007 at 3:12 am

    Hey there, nowdays in England, it’s pretty much the same as the US and Canada :-)

    As for Scotland though, well, as a Scot, I’d say the traditions of carving out the neeps (turnips) started here, not Ireland ;-) You also missed out quite a lot of our customs – there’s obviously the dressing up like you do across the pond, but then there’s the games! “Dookin” (plunging?) for apples which involves apples floating in a bucket of water and you having to take them out with your teeth, with your hands behind your back, and also another game with scones covered in treacle hanging from string you have to eat (messy!).. sometimes that one’s blindfolded too.. Good fun!

    Most scholars believe the American “trick or treating” evolved from the Scots “guising”..

  22. valli

    On October 11, 2007 at 5:35 am

    Interesting article. I enjoyed very much.

  23. der_uhu

    On October 11, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    hmm… I’m from Germany. Never heard that we celebrate Halloween.
    And never heard that we put away our knives that the spirits will not be hurt ^^

    strange article. But liked it.

  24. Wayne Conner

    On October 12, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    great pics… Interesting article

  25. fjrlfklg

    On October 12, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Great Job Darlene! Those Jack-o-lanterns scared me!

  26. Onflame

    On October 13, 2007 at 6:20 am

    Darlene, why is my comment missing?

  27. Darlene McFarlane

    On October 13, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Onflame,it must have got turned off accidentally. I’m glad you noticed.

    Thank you,

  28. Onflame

    On October 13, 2007 at 11:10 am

    No problem.

  29. beauley, Lucien

    On October 13, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    First, Your article is comprehensive and very good work. It was also a lot of work laying out the graphics and this made it very interesting. Thank you Darlene.

  30. Judy Sheldon

    On October 13, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Diane, you must have put a lot of work into this. It was an excellent article with great illustrations. I found it informative and fun to read.

  31. Useful information for those who need to know

    On October 14, 2007 at 6:44 am

    Halloween originated with the Celtic nations that at one time
    occupied Ireland and most of Northern Europe.
    It was originally called The Festival of Samhain.

    It was celebrated because the Celts
    believed that on the day before the end of summer,
    the worlds of the living and the dead intermingled.
    They believed the intermingling dead could wreak havoc on their crops.

    This was an especially hard time with the harsh winter ahead.
    The Druids, (Celtic priests) would build fires and make sacrifices.
    The people would wear elaborate costumes

    It was later changed and mixed with
    the Roman festival of the dead when the Romans conquered the Celts.
    The celebration was later amended again to honor the Roman diety Pamona.

    (Its origins have nothing to do with the Catholics, though some Catholic traditions got mingled in later and the name All Hallows Eve is an error)

    This halloween.think long and hard about its origins.
    Is it really something you want to celebrate
    now that you know what its purpose is?

    Sorry Darlene, hate to bash your article it was quite interesting
    though somewhat flawed

  32. John

    On October 14, 2007 at 6:50 am

    Halloween is a Pagan Holiday and always has been since its beginnings no matter how you slice it or change it
    hate to break it to you all

  33. Onflame

    On October 14, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Mauve Verbena in a planter!

  34. Anne Lyken-Garner

    On October 14, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    In Ireland you’re also expected to give bigger handfulls of sweets than you are in England or in North America. They also celebrate Halloween with a bit of the ole fire crackers. In one small village in Cork where we’d lived, some kids came around a couple of nights before Halloween, sang ‘Happy Halloween to you’ (in the tune of (’Happy birthday to you’)then put their hands out to me. I gave them a couple of euros and told them to run off and don’t come back for any sweets on the night.

    Like I expected, they did. Halloween is certainly bigger and better in Ireland.

  35. jg

    On October 15, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Very interesting

  36. joanne

    On October 15, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Nice article and pictures. I suppose there are many different “opinions” of where Halloween began, but part of it, which is true is that was a pagan thing, just as Christmas was.
    The Catholic Church, after Constitine decided it was to be the religion, made peace with many pagans by taking their holidays and making them Christian Holy Days. Halloween was then made the day before All Souls Day , just as Christmas used to be “hanging of the greens,” and such in Nordic places that thought perhaps the sun would not return and it would just get cold. Same as “Cheers” came from “Skul”, when they drank wine (their version was grog) out of human skulls. We like to “clean it up” and keep the old ways mixed with the new meanings. Much of pagan rites had to do with changing of the seasons, where the moon and the sun happened to be, etc. as this influenced crops, which even if we didn’t eat meat, the animals would have to have some food before we ate them…It was all survival, and trying to please the Great Unknown… JoAnne, from a convent school, where they studied a LOT of such things.

  37. kit-kat

    On October 22, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    the pictures are really interesting!!!!
    everything eles cool.

  38. samir

    On October 25, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    What about the celebration in the middle east?

  39. Yvonne

    On October 26, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    I have found the information here excellent, I am the manager of an after school club and we are celebrating Halloween next week so I am going to use the information I have found her in the setting so that the children can see how other children in the world celebrate.

  40. Friday

    On September 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for the info! I have an article myself here: -It’s a different take.

  41. frances

    On September 30, 2008 at 1:09 pm


  42. Monica G

    On October 27, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I loved all the traditions from all those places mentioned above.

  43. Arasi

    On November 2, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    This is very intersting and amazing how countries celebrate halloween but I thourt you had a excited thing that every body injoys them and with their families.

  44. sunil

    On November 6, 2008 at 11:06 am

    This site is very nice, I got couple of great information here. And also got that “what is called the Halloween”.

    My friend link me this for reading.

    Thanks once again

    Sunil (India)

  45. qwerty

    On March 8, 2009 at 4:45 am

    ummm i was just wondering is halloween always celebrated on the same day???

  46. thefunpolice

    On October 17, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Halloween Nonsense
    Category: Life
    It is that evil time of year again folks, it crept up on us like a pair of bad-fitting boxers. Kids are dressing up like like demons, ghouls, freaks, and faeries. Frankly it’s offensive. Not only to The Fun Police and common folk, but also to Wiccans. It’s a darn good thing that Puyallup has banned all of this Halloween nonsense from it’s schools and that other schools around our nation are following suit.
    Please refrain from consuming too much candy this season, and always check your apples for razorblades. Watch the folowing video for further information on this topic. And please take it upon yourselves to write your congressperson and try to press for a state, a country, or (hey why not), an international ban of this silly, demeaning holiday!


    Ranger Ruffhousen and The Fun Police

  47. Tivoli

    On October 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I’m Russian, and I’ve never heard about blue cats that bring good luck in this day!

  48. MeganCB

    On June 24, 2011 at 4:55 am

    WOW, this is the most amazing article I have ever seen in my 15 years.

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