By far the spookiest night of the year, Halloween is one of the most eagerly-anticipated celebrations around the world, traditionally held on October 31st.
Originating deep in the pagan practices of the Celtic culture, the custom of remembering the dead became more popular after Irish migrants immigrated to America. For most of us, Halloween means the ghoulish faces of jack o’lanterns and “trick or treat” – where children visit neighborhood houses in the hope that they’ll receive fistfuls of sweets, yet Halloween’s appeal – and its traditions – vary greatly country to country.
Halloween in Mexico
In Mexico, El Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, lasts for three days. During this time, locals organize parades featuring dancers dressed as skeletons and a person carried by ushers in a coffin. It’s believed that spirits of the deceased come back to visit the living, so families decorate their living rooms with flowers, photographs, water, and some of the dead’s favorite foods while burning candles to help guide the spirits in the dark.
Halloween in the UK
In the UK, Halloween tradition held that children would carry Jack-o’lanterns – created from turnips, beets, or pumpkins – through the streets (believe us, the beets are by far the scarier of the bunch!), and knock on neighbour’s doors in the hopes the inhabitants would give them money. In some areas, a turnip lantern was placed on gateposts, and candles lit on window sills to ward off evil spirits.
In Scotland, people peel an apple in one long strip of skin and throw it over their shoulder. The letter formed by the peel would supposedly be initial of a future spouse.
Halloween in Ireland
In Ireland, locals bake a barmbrack – a traditional loaf of bread with sultanas and raisins. A ring is hidden in the cake and children desperately hope to have it in their piece. Also, the Barmbrack is considered to be a predictor of wealth and love.
Halloween across Europe
In Germany, people hide all the knives in the house so that visiting spirits don’t injure themselves. The last thing you’d want is a ghost in need of a plaster!
In Italy, traditional Halloween cookies in the shape of beans are crafted especially for the Italian take on the Day of the Dead and are known as ‘Fave dei Morti’ (Beans of the Dead).
In Austria, locals leave a snack outside their doors and turn the lights on.
Halloween in the US
The United States can comfortably lay claim to the most widespread and fantastical celebration of Halloween worldwide. Mischief Night – also known as Bonfire Night or Devil’s night – is a widespread custom in New England, South Dakota, and Michigan. People will ‘trick’ others by throwing rotten fruit, doorbell ditching, and ‘egging’ people’s houses.
The US has also managed to dominate the commercialization of Halloween, and business is good. Last year alone, it’s estimated that Americans spent over 9.1 Billion dollars on their Halloween exploits. That’s a lot of witches hats, devil horns, and candy!
Looking for some ghoulishly good Halloween fun? Head to Karma Sanctum Soho for their Mexican-themed ‘Day of the Dead’ Halloween Party this October 28th! Find out more information here.