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Opinion

Countries around the world celebrate Halloween with traditions, customs

Cristin Dempsey

October 25, 2012

Halloween in the United States is well known for costumes, frightening ghost stories and of course, trick-or-treating. People look forward to Halloween every year to dress up as a different character and have an excuse to eat piles and piles of candy.

While we Americans have our own traditions, other countries are well known for other ways of celebrating. They have their own unique traditions that they look forward to every year; just as many Americans like to get scared or dress up.

But what exactly can be different on Halloween? Why doesn’t everyone all just do one thing? While it is relatively similar, special celebrations are what make this a holiday one to look forward to annually.

Ireland celebrates the spooky holiday very similar to the U.S. Many Irish people love to draw attention to their homes with pumpkin displays and dress up as creatures from the underworld, such as ghosts and goblins. It is also a custom to play a bobbing for apples game at a party, go trick-or-treating and have a bonfire while they watch the annual fireworks display.

Halloween is a huge celebration in Ireland and the city of Derry even has a large street carnival and their own fireworks display.

Many Irish enjoy a traditional Halloween cake, called barmbrack, which is a type of fruit bread. Each piece of the bread would have items like a pea, a piece of cloth, a stick, a small coin and a ring. Each item would represent what the person is supposed to expect in the coming year. Many of these predictions are concerned with marriage.

Halloween in England is not as widely celebrated as it is in North America or Ireland, but people still observe it on a religious basis. The English observe All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. On All Souls’ Eve families stay up late and eat a traditional food called a “soul cake.”

At the stroke of midnight, several homes reach a solemn silence. The homes have candles burning in each room of their home as to guide the souls back to their earthly homes. In addition, a glass of wine would sit on the table to refresh them.

Soul cakes stem from an activity called “souling,” similar to trick-or-treating. Children go door to door singing songs or saying prayers for the dead in exchange for these small cakes or money.

Some celebrations in England include bobbing for apples and making toffee apples or apple tarts. Some of the apple tarts are known to have had coins or a special kind of nut inside of them.

Many European countries actually did not celebrate Halloween until recently. In several countries, such as Greece and Bulgaria, the Orthodox Church does not recognize Halloween as a holiday. Therefore, most celebrations in these countries are unofficial.

Greece observes Halloween by showing Halloween-related programming on television, otherwise they do not hold many special traditions.

Like Mexico, Bulgaria instead recognizes Halloween as “The Day of the Dead.” It is used to honor the dead and there are no costumes or parties. However, teenagers will still often go out trick-or-treating.

Many countries follow the example of the United States: dressing up and going door to door. The commercial aspect and television programs are what made Halloween emerge at all in these areas.

Many countries in Asia and South America, such as Japan and Columbia, celebrate Halloween widely. They have also recently started to observe the day as a holiday thanks to American traditions and pop culture.

In Japan, costumes are usually worn in the confines of one’s home or a party and trick-or-treating is not normally practiced. Instead, many Japanese people will eat themed snacks, such as pumpkin soup and flavored corn puffs. They also enjoy decorating homes and theme parks with jack-o’-lanterns.

Colombia celebrates Halloween in an almost identical way to the United States, though the Catholic Church frowns upon it. They are concerned with children finding happiness in ghosts, witches and goblins. They have expressed before that it would be ideal to keep the holiday but remove the “sinister” Halloween symbols.

While many countries are still new at celebrating the holiday and have adopted American traditions, some countries take pride in their unique traditions. Whether people like it or not, it is still a fun holiday every year to get creative, scared and eat a lot of candy.

Though many traditions will be present for a long time, one tradition will never be accepted; do not give trick-or-treaters toothbrushes and carrots. Because seriously, carrots just taste like water.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.

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