Halloween Traditions

By Korri Manzolini

Halloween is one of the oldest holidays, going back to pagan times. It is the most popular in America and Ireland, but there are several countries that celebrate with their own unique traditions.

Ireland and Scotland:

Ireland is considered the birthplace of Halloween because of its origins stemming from Celtic and Pagan rituals and a festival known as Samhain. Today, both Ireland and Scotland celebrate this holiday with bonfires, games, and traditional foods like barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake that contains coins and rings for fortune telling. The rings in the cake mean marriage and the coins mean wealth for the upcoming year.


Austria has a pumpkin festival in Retzer Land called Kurbisfest. On November 11, they celebrate Martini which includes costumes and lanterns. Some believe that if they leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp outside, souls will be welcomed to the earth for the night. Belgium also leaves a candle out for their loved ones.


Pangangaluluwa is a tradition where children go to peoples’ doors in costumes while singing and asking for prayers for those who are stuck in purgatory. This ritual has been delayed over the years due to trick-or-treating but some towns are trying to revive it as a way of keeping a tradition and a local fundraiser.


In china, the festival is called Teng Chieh. Food and water is placed in front of photographs of family members who have died and bonfires are lit in order to light paths for their spirits to come to earth on Halloween night. Worshipers in Buddhist temples make “boats of the law” from paper which are burned in the evening. The purpose of the custom is to remember the dead and free the spirits of the “pretas” so that they might go to heaven. Pretas are the spirits of those who died because of an accident or drowning and those who were never buried. Under the guidance from the Buddhist temples, ceremonies are performed to help those spirits and monks recite verses and offer fruit.


Chairs are placed in front of a fireplace on Halloween night. There is a chair for each living family member and a chair for those who have died.


In France, Halloween is considered an American celebration and it is not necessarily a good thing. It was unknown until around 1996 but the love the french had for parties and costume events caused the holiday to rise slowly. They heard about Halloween through foreign residents and tourists in their English classes and in 1982, the American Dream bar in Paris began celebrating Halloween. At first it had to be explained what it was but, as the years went by, they became familiar with it. Halloween in France is usually celebrated by wearing costumes and going to parties. The costumes have to be “scary” rather than cute, such as superheroes and princesses. Traditionally, pumpkins are not a popular food in France so there is a high demand for jack-o’-lanterns during Halloween. This holiday is considered controversial due to the corporate and cultural influence and is not a typical French holiday so many wonder why is it being celebrated. Because Halloween is such an American celebration, some French people refuse to enjoy it.

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