Halloween Round the Globe

samhainYesterday, as I brought out my Halloween-themed lessons in classes, I found that there were a lot of Halloween haters out there. Halloween involves dressing up and getting candy, so how someone could hate it is beyond me. However, I do understand that I have grown up with the holiday and don’t have it forced at my nation via Facebook and Buzzfeed. In addition, I am aware that the U.S. is the major celebrator of Halloween, spending about $6 billion a year on candy, decorations, and Kim Kardashian costumes.

Most Halloween haters aim their hate at the U.S., but the U.S. is not the country that came up with the idea of Halloween and it’s far from the only country that celebrates some form of it. So let’s get to the bottom of where this whole Halloween business started and who else celebrates it…or something like it.


The roots of modern Halloween are in Celtic Ireland and set more than 2,000 years ago. The feast of Samhain marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Winter: aka, the dark and scary time of year. So they had to prepare by slaughtering animals and wishing there was Kayak.com so they could get cheap flights to Maui. It was a time marked by bonfires and feasts. As sure as I’m sitting here in pjs, they were also drinking some form of booze – probably mead – and just praying that someone would invent Guinness.

Samhain was when the souls of the dead revisited their homes, so the Celts left food and wine at the front door for them. This is also where dressing up in costumes started, as they dressed up like ghosts so they’d be mistaken for one of the dead.

Today, the Irish celebrate Halloween with festivals that include fortune-telling, games, and guising. It also includes several superstitions such as if a woman finds a silver ring in her mashed potatoes or fruitcake, she will be married by next Halloween.

The only thing I find in mashed potatoes is happiness and twelve pounds.

Latin America

Not just Latin America, but many of the Latin countries such as Mexico and Spain celebrate Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead. Like Samhain, this is the time of year in which people honor their dead loved ones. Moreover, the dead return to Earth to check on their loved ones and their email.

Just like the Irish (or the Celts) Latin folks are quite hospitable towards their dead friends and family. The build them altars and decorate them with flowers, pictures, and wreaths. They also leave out some of their favorite food and drinks, and even a towel and water so the dead can wash up before the feast. I have heard it’s pretty dirty in the Underworld.

There are festivities with skull and skeleton-themed decorations (this includes the food, which is shaped into skulls and skeletons). And families go to the graves of their deceased relatives and have a picnic to honor and reminisce.

It’s a pity I’m not Spanish, because I am pretty sure after a few years in the Underworld I’ll be dying for some hotdogs and Gambrinus. Ole!


The British don’t really have a Halloween tradition, but they do take Halloween as an opportunity to warn the world what happens when you tick off Britain. They have bonfires and burn a man in effigy.

Guy Fawkes Day festivities commemorate the execution of a notorious English traitor, Guy Fawkes. On November 5, 1606, Fawkes was executed after being convicted of attempting to blow up England’s parliament building. This, evidently, is a big no-no.

Before that the English had basically stopped celebrating Halloween since Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation took over. Since followers of the new religion did not believe in saints, they had no reason to celebrate the eve of All Saints’ Day. This is interesting, since Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who wanted to remove a Protestant king, burning him in effigy had sort of anti-Catholic tones to it. This could also be because the first bonfires (originally called bone fires. eek) were burning the Pope in effigy. It only switched over to Fawkes after a couple hundred years.

Guy Fawkes Day is now celebrated with bonfires and kids carrying around effigies and asking for a “penny for the guy.” Money they keep themselves. Oh, and surely about 120 million gin and tonics and warm bitters.


The Japanese celebrate the three-day festival of Obon, which honors the spirits of dead ancestors and involve feasts, a special dance, and lit candles. The candles are lit to help the ancestors find their families on Earth, and on the final day of Obon a farewell fire is lit to help guide the ghosts back to their graves.

Obon started when a disciple of Buddha saw that his dead mother was in the place of hungry ghosts and asked for her release. I mention this, because if there is karma I will end up in a place for hungry ghosts. Just keep me in mind in the future, OK?

So there you have it. Several Halloweenish festivals and celebrations from all over the world. I hope at the very least you stop thinking this whole Halloween business was conceived by U.S. marketers and entrepreneurs.

That said, I am really sorry about the Kim Kardashian costumes.

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