I have been missing Halloween in the worst way this year. I grew up with Halloween being an actual season–decorations, costumes, and neighborhood trick or treating. No one celebrates Halloween quite like North America. The United States took Irish traditions, massively commercialized them, and made them into something much bigger (and I love it!). Thanks to the spread of American expatriates and American culture, though, Halloween is catching on in more places. I’m hoping to be a part of that this year–I’ve passed out flyers on our street with instructions on how to participate in trick or treating. It will be interesting to see how we fare–with each attempt at bringing Halloween to a new place, local twists come out. Halloween celebrations around the world vary–here are just a few!
Barmbrack – Ireland
Many of the Halloween traditions that we know and love today got their start in Ireland. However, not all of the Halloween traditions from Ireland have caught on in other parts of the world. One such thing is barmbrack, or sometimes just called brack. Barmbrack is a quick bread with sultanas and raisins added in and it looks quite similar to fruitcake you’d see at Christmas. Traditionally Halloween brack would have items put in them; a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin, and a ring. This was part of a fortune telling game and each item would have some special meaning revolving around money or getting married. Trick or treating is popular with very young children in Ireland and things like popcorn balls and apples are just as common as candy.
Leave Out Bread and Water – Austria
In Austria it is expected that you will leave out bread and water for the full week of All Saint’s Week. You’re also expected to leave the lights on when you go to bed. This is to welcome the souls of the dead back to Earth for the short time they can exist in the mortal realm. It is a solemn time and far less of a party than you would see in North America. However, the influence of American culture and expats can be seen in some of the larger cities. In Retz and Pulkau, Halloween is an annual pumpkin festival, complete with parades, parties, and all the pumpkins you could want.
Kawasaki Halloween Parade – Japan
Most of Japan doesn’t celebrate Halloween, though there are some notable exceptions. It is becoming increasingly more common on Halloween to see youth dressed up in costumes. There is also the Kawasaki Halloween Parade which has been held for a little over 20 years now. Nearly 4,000 people from all over the world take part in the parade every year. Those wanting to take part must apply to be in the parade 2 months in advance.
Scary Costumes – France
France never had a tradition of celebrating Halloween until more recently. But France loves a party and joining in on Halloween celebrations around the world is a great excuse! Having seen Halloween in popular media from the United States, the idea of having a giant costume party has caught on. Don’t expect to see anyone dressed up as a sexy pizza or a princess, though. In France, people are drawn to the scarier costumes like ghosts, mummies, witches, and vampires. However, Halloween is still somewhat controversial in France as many people see it as both an invasion of American culture and corporate influence.
Put Away the Knives – Germany
With the rise of American expats in Germany, the country is starting to see more Halloween events taking place. But for local Germans, All Saint’s Day is celebrated followed by All Soul’s Day. Like in Austria, this is a solemn time to honor the lives of those family members who have passed. Many in Germany will also put all of their knives away or hide them. This is done so the returning spirits can’t be harmed or harming the living with them.
The “Trick” in Trick or Treat — Scotland
We had a great time with trick or treating in Scotland. It was easy to find neighborhoods and streets who participated. Houses would put out at least one small decoration and leave their porch light on as a signal that they had treats to hand out. More often than not, when the kids said trick or treat, the response was that the treat-giver wanted a trick. It was expected that the kids would tell a joke or do a little dance or song. It was common to be given handmade cookies or a couple of marshmallows out of a bag–the worry over unwrapped candy wasn’t a thing. Scotland offers small Halloween themed events, like the Halloween Trail at the Botanics in Edinburgh.
These are obviously just a few of the many Halloween celebrations around the world. There are many more places that celebrate Halloween in their own way and there are also places that have holidays similar to Halloween. Wherever you are and however you celebrate, enjoy the holiday safely!