Global experiences

Halloween around the world

Halloween is one of the biggest holidays in the United States (and at EF). Each year on October 31, people dress up in some of the scariest, most outlandish, or most creative costumes to celebrate the day. While Halloween is associated with costume parties and trick-or-treating in the U.S., it’s also a holiday rooted in ancestral tributes and harvest traditions. Learn more about how others celebrate Halloween around the world (then start making plans to help your students experience these cultures with EF Educational Tours).

halloween around the world

Tonamel/Via Flickr

Ireland
Not only is Ireland the birthplace of Halloween, it’s also home to Samhain, one of the world’s biggest Halloween festivals. The festival, which has been held for more than 2,000 years, is an ancient Celtic festival celebrated throughout rural Ireland. People celebrate with party games, bonfires, and traditional Irish food. One food steeped in superstition is barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake containing coins, rings, and other objects. It’s said that if a woman finds a ring in her barmbrack, she’ll be married by the next Halloween.

Germany
In Germany, Halloween is observed from October 30 through November 8, which is also Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day). In southern Germany, the holiday is spent attending church to honor Catholic saints and family members who have passed away.

China
The Teng Chieh lantern festival in China is similar to Halloween in that it’s intended as a time to remember the dead. The Chinese honor deceased family members by placing food and water in front of loved ones’ photos. Festivals are held during this celebration, which typically concludes the Chinese New Year festivities. Lanterns shaped like dragons and other animals are hung outside to protect people from evil spirits.

United Kingdom
Halloween traditions in the United Kingdom hardly exist at all. Since Protestantism, a religion without saints, came to Britain, the nation moved its Halloween celebration to November 5. But the holiday has little to do with Halloween traditions. Now known as Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, this holiday is widely observed throughout the U.K. with bonfires, the burning of effigies, and fireworks.

Japan
In Japan, the Obon Festival celebrates the memory of deceased ancestors, but is quite different from the typical Halloween celebrations seen in the states. Lanterns are lit with candles and set afloat on the water. During the Obon Festival, the spirits of deceased loved ones are said to return until “send-off fires” summon them back to their graves. Unlike Halloween, this holiday takes place in the summer with outdoor festivals held in its honor.

Looking to learn more about haunted history or how other cultures celebrate Halloween around the world? Check out the following articles:

Editor’s note (2020): This piece has been updated for clarity, accuracy, and relevance.
Topics: Culture, Holidays

Rachel Waldmann

Rachel is a Marketing intern with EF Educational Tours and EF Explore America.

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