31st October is just around the corner. In some parts of the world this is just another day; in other places however, it’s a day of celebration and remembrance.
To celebrate this unique holiday, we’re taking a look at some one-of-a-kind traditions taking place in different parts of the world:
Halloween in America has evolved from a relatively simple night for children to dress up and go from door-to-door in search of treats to a full flung party.
These days, homes are decorated in ghostly, scary and supernatural themes, shops are full of Halloween decorations, “haunted houses” open up in empty warehouses, mills and slaughterhouses and costume shops spring up in large numbers. The National Retail Federation predicts that Halloween spending in the USA will be $9.1 billion this year – a new record!
Not everyone in Lithuania embraces the noise and festivities that surround All Hallows Evening.
Younger people embrace the chance to dress up as a favourite character from a movie, book or television programme, whilst shop owners welcome the chance to increase their sales and earnings. This trend is a relatively new method of celebrating Halloween in Lithuania, replacing the traditions of graveyard visits and candles lit to pay respect for deceased friends and loved ones.
Older Lithuanians as a group do not appear to be fans of the current trends. This group seems to prefer the concentration and tranquillity that traditionally marked All Hallows Evening, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
In Mexico the two-day Day of the Dead celebration begins at midnight on 31st October. According to legend, the Gates of Heaven open at midnight on the 31st allowing the souls of children to reunite with their families for 24 hours on the 1st November; souls of adults come down on the 2nd November.
Altars are placed in homes filled with fruit, water, hot chocolate and special bread. The families leave out candies and toys for the souls of children; for the souls of adults they leave out shots of mescal and cigarettes.
The Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Romania discourage Halloween celebrations, but do encourage church members to participate in special religious observances on the 1st of November, the “Day of the Dead.” A number of religious and nationalist groups have called for a ban on some Halloween observances including costumes and decorations in schools.
Halloween celebrations are very popular at bars and nightclubs. Transylvania, the “home” of Dracula, is popular with tourists during the Halloween period and is heavily promoted by the Romanian tourist agencies. One of the largest Halloween parties takes place at Sighisoara, the citadel that is the supposed birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, who many say provided the inspiration for Dracula.
Most historians cite the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, Celtic New Year’s Eve as the origin of Halloween. In fact the UK is the birthplace of many modern holiday traditions.
The first written reference to “Halloween” can be found in the 1500s and poems from the 1700s describe such traditions as pulling pranks and dressing in various disguises.
English children carved large beetroots into “punkies” which they carried through the streets, knocking on doors and asking for money. The tradition of trick or treating is said to have evolved from the preparation of soul cakes on All Souls Eve. A moment of silence was observed as the cakes were eaten and candles were lit to guide the souls of the departed back for a visit to their earthly homes.
Today the more American-style Halloween customs of costume parties, young children going door-to-door to trick or treat and lively parties at bars and clubs tend to dominate celebrations in the UK.
The largest Halloween festival in the UK and perhaps in Europe is held in Londonderry. The Banks of the Foyle carnival features interactive haunted houses, grand parades and a number of other festivities.
Western-style Halloween celebrations have been growing in popularity with the younger people in Poland since the fall of Communism in 1989.
More traditionally the Polish have observed All Souls Day on the first two days of November. The observance includes a visit to the graves of dead family members on the first and often includes flowers, candles and prayers for the family members who have departed. A requiem mass for the souls of the dead is held on the second.
Halloween celebrations in Germany are also relatively new. Although “trick or treating” occurred in small areas during the Cold War, widespread popularity did not occur until the 1990s.
Halloween is celebrated by children who go trick or treating and adults who attend costume parties at clubs or homes. Overall the Germans spend about €200 million on Halloween festivities and supplies.
Halloween is growing in popularity in most of the European countries where celebrations are relatively recent. Switzerland is the notable exception. Halloween started to gain in popularity there around 1999 but has already begun to wane. Young adults are the most likely to celebrate Halloween, typically by having a party.
In addition to publishing articles helping readers to save time and money when moving abroad, the TransferGo Blog also publishes articles designed to entertain and plan an escape. This Halloween article is the latest in that category, so keep an eye on more similar posts coming soon.