While dressing up like a child from a smash Netflix show, eating orange tooth-shaped “corn” candy and having meltdowns in haunted houses may seem like universal Halloween experiences, the world celebrates the holiday very differently than Americans — if they even celebrate it at all.
Oct. 31 is a hybrid celebration that draws from several different cultural traditions, largely Irish-Celtic. Yet the highly commercialized Halloween we know and love today — what with jack-o’-lanterns, trick-or-treating and sexy mouse costumes — was popularized in America and then proliferated globally through television and film.
Here, children in Northern Ireland dress up for the 2015 City of Bones Parade.
People around the world took to Reddit to share how Halloween is celebrated in their countries:
The United Kingdom
“I’m from the U.K. It’s not super popular and tends to be more students who just want an excuse to get wasted. We get a few trick-or-treaters, but not a massive amount. In our family, we try to make a big thing of it. We all carve pumpkins, dress the kids up and take them out.”
“Lots of people like to carve pumpkins to put in their windows, and some even go full out and make a big display with black cloth, skeletons, spiders and the like. Although the practice is somewhat discouraged nowadays, some youths still like to throw eggs/flour at houses that don’t provide trick-or-treat goodies, and play other pranks as well.”
“It’s a huge thing in Ireland/Scotland — a hangover from our Celtic past.”
“In the last 10 years or so it’s becoming more Americanized here in Ireland. We started to give out candy instead of fruit and peanuts, and people have started to decorate their houses more for it. We still also use it as an opportunity to get rid of our junk to the kids who knock on the doors looking for stuff to burn on the bonfire. They go door to door in certain parts of Dublin with a shopping trolley collecting anything flammable. On top of that, in certain parts of Dublin there’s a tradition of robbing cars and burning them by the bonfire, too.”
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“We don’t have the tradition of celebrating Halloween, but we do have themed parties on Halloween day. In some years we have a ‘zombie walk’ in Lisbon, and in Porto there is an event called ‘Porto Scary Sessions,’ although it’s not Halloween-exclusive. It’s also pretty fun.”
“We celebrate St. Martin’s Day. Instead of trick-or-treating, kids take their hand-crafted lanterns and go door to door to sing and hopefully receive candy in return. This is totally lame in comparison to Halloween, and I think Halloween is slowly taking over. Every year I see more spooky, scary houses on St. Martin’s Day.”
“It appeared here in the ’90s and seems like it’s slowly dying. Some young neighborhoods in my area still see a few trick-or-treaters, but I’ve never seen one at my house. Pretty much every store has a Halloween aisle though, and there’s still quite a lot of parties being organized as an excuse to get drunk in costumes. It’s just not part of our culture, so many people don’t care about it.
“A lot of stores are trying to push it as a thing and influence from the U.S. does a lot, but we mostly celebrate our own holiday Fastelavn, which is very similar with costumes and going from door to door. However, we also sing at the door, hit the cat off the barrel (we have a barrel with a cat painted on it, which is filled with candy, then you hit it until the candy falls out, back in the day there was an actual cat in it). Then we crown the cat prince, king and queen. The prince is the one who makes the first hole in the barrel, the king is whoever gets the candy out and the queen is whoever gets the last piece of wood off the rope. It used to be a celebration of the end of the fasting, but we don’t do that anymore and just celebrate Fastelavn.”
“We do celebrate it, but it’s not as big of a deal as in the U.S.”
“We have Fasching/Karneval for dressing up and eating too much candy here in Germany. It’s in February or March. It starts on Nov. 11 and goes on until Lent, but the parties and street festivals are usually towards the end.”
All posts have been edited from Reddit for length and clarity.
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