It’s that spooky time of year when fun-seekers, young and old, dress up as witches and goblins, throw costume parties, and go trick-or-treating in neighbourhoods across the country. But, how is October 31 celebrated internationally? Here’s what we found out.
Halloween Customs in Romania
On October 31, Romanians celebrate Halloween around the myth of Dracula, a real-life early 15th century Romanian prince who also had the nickname of “Vlad the Impaler.” Sighisoara, the city where Vlad the Impaler was born, is the site of the country’s most popular Halloween festivities, which include historical reenactments of Transylvanian witch trials. The modern-day popularity of Dracula is also credited to Irish author Bram Stoker, who fictionalized the character as “Count Dracula” in his classic 1897 Gothic horror novel.
Halloween Customs in Japan
The Japanese celebrate the Obon Festival (also known as “Matsuri” or “Urabon”), which has similarities to Canadian Halloween festivities, despite being held at a different time of year (the festival is observed in July or August instead of October). Special foods are prepared and bright red lanterns are hung everywhere in honour of the spirits of deceased loved ones and ancestors. During the Obon Festival, a fire is lit nightly to help show ancestors where their families might be found. Lighted candles in lanterns are set afloat on rivers and seas, gravestones are cleaned, and dances are performed in the community.
Halloween Customs in Hong Kong
There are not one, but two, ways of celebrating Halloween in Hong Kong. The first involves the event of “Yue Lan” (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts), and is an opportunity to offer gifts to spirits of the dead to provide them comfort as well as ward them off. The second (and more commercialized) event is celebrated by expatriate Canadians and Americans, and this is evident at attractions such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, which host annual Halloween shows and parties.
Halloween Customs in Mexico
In Mexico, Halloween is known as “El Dia de los Muertos,” or “The Day of the Dead.” The three-day celebration begins on October 31 and ends on November 2, “All Souls’ Day.” Unlike in Canada where the focus is on the spooky and scary side of the supernatural, Mexicans view this as a joyous holiday that honours deceased loved ones. Families often construct an altar in their home and decorate it with candy, flowers, as well as the deceased’s photographs, and favourite foods and drinks.
Halloween Customs in England
During the early 15th century, when Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation began to spread, the English stopped celebrating Halloween. Since followers of the new religion did not believe in saints, they saw no reason to celebrate the Eve of All Saints’ Day. In recent years, however, Halloween has taken on a secular tone, with English children copying the North American tradition of going door-to-door to “trick or treat” while dressed up in costumes.