Trick-or-treat, costumes, and jack-o’-lanterns may be the norm where you’re from, but Halloween is always a little bit different, depending on where you are.
What other countries celebrate Halloween? Surprisingly, a lot, although the holiday may have a different name, date, and rituals. If you’re eager to see other cultures’ take on the spookiest holiday in the calendar, here are five unique Halloween traditions and celebrations from all over the world.
If you’re wondering why we celebrate Halloween, look to Ireland. Although the spooky holiday is celebrated in many countries, its origins can be traced to Ireland’s ancient Celtic pagan festival known as Samhain. The three-day festival marks the end of summer and the beginning of the dark half of the year, according to the Celtic calendar.
During Samhain, which is now celebrated from October 31 to November 2, the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead are believed to be weaker with spirits crossing over and causing mayhem to the living. To protect themselves and appease the spirits, ancient Celts used to burn sacrificial offerings and dress up in costumes. Nowadays, Samhain celebrations still include bonfires along with pranks, games, and a special Irish fruitcake called barmbrack.
Día de los Muertos (Mexico, Latin America)
Probably the most well-known Halloween-related celebration in popular culture is Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” While it is most associated with Mexico, the holiday takes place all across Latin America every year on November 1 and 2. For 24 hours, the souls of the dead are believed to come back to Earth to be reunited with their families.
Día de los Muertos is a holiday honoring the dead, but it’s a lively, vibrant celebration with food, alcoholic drinks, and even music included in the Halloween traditions. All over Latin America, people set up altars of their loved ones at home with photos, flowers, candles, and even food like candies and pan de muerto bread. Revelers even take to the streets dressed up as skeletons.
Hungry Ghost Festival (China, Hong Kong, Other Parts of Asia)
While the Hungry Ghost Festival is much earlier than Halloween Day on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month—usually falling in August to September—it is a very similar celebration. It’s a day out of the month-long “Ghost Month,” with traditional Chinese beliefs saying restless spirits roam the Earth on this day.
To appease these spirits, locals take to “feeding” the deceased and making sacrifices. In many parts of China, people release burning lanterns on rivers to guide the spirits towards money and food. The celebrations in Hong Kong include burning paper money and leaving food out for the deceased.
Pitru Paksha (India)
India’s take on Halloween traditions is closely intertwined with their Hindu religion. Pitru Paksha, which lasts for 16 days, is a period in which Hindus pay tribute to their ancestors and other people they love who have passed away.
A ritual known as Shraddha is performed during Pitru Paksha. The said ritual is usually performed by the eldest son or male relative, but women can perform it, too. Food offerings during this period include kheer, lapsi, rice, dal, and pumpkin.
Guy Fawkes Night (England)
Guy Fawkes Night is a few days after the usual Halloween celebrations, but in England, many parties blend the two holidays together in one rip-roaring event. It marks the foiled Gunpowder Plot of Catholic conspirators who aimed to blow up the House of Parliament and kill King James I in 1605.
Traditionally, children parade an effigy of Guy Fawkes—the first conspirator arrested for the plot—down the streets, ask people for “a penny for the Guy,” and go on to burn the effigy in a massive bonfire. Halloween is becoming more commonly celebrated in England, but many still celebrate the holiday with fireworks and bonfires.
If you’re looking for something more traditionally scary, visit Universal Studios Japan for their annual Halloween Horror Nights. Book an express pass with KKday.