Here in the U.S., we dress up in costumes, beg for candy from our neighbors, and listen to “Monster Mash.” Here’s how the most spooktacular of holidays is celebrated around the globe.
The tradition of carving jack-o-lanterns came to America with immigrants from the British Isles. For as long as anyone can remember, they were carved out of pumpkins, because that’s a common large vegetable in the Americas. Pumpkins have become increasingly prominent in England and Scotland, but lots of people there still make their jack-o-lanterns out of the vegetables people used hundreds of years ago: turnips and beets.
A lot of the ways that Halloween is celebrated come from the ancient Irish observance of Samhain. Some of those traditions remain intact on the Emerald Isle. One of them is preparing and eating a barmbrack. It’s a fruitcake stuffed with tiny, wrapped treats. What you get in your slice foretells your fate for the coming months. A ring means you’ll find love; a coin means you’ll come into some money.
A common thread of Halloween is an interest and respect for the dead. In Austria, people “commune” with deceased souls by leaving bread and water out all night, along with keeping the lights on all night. These gestures welcome the dead back to the Earth during the one time of year they’re allowed to visit the realm of the living.
Traditionally, kids partake in an activity called Pangangaluluwa. It’s similar to trick-or-treating, but a bit more spiritual and solemn. They go door-to-door in costume and they sing and ask for prayers for dead loved ones they believe to be in Purgatory.
The American Midwest
In most of the United States, costumed, candy-seeking kids walk up to doors and say, “Trick or treat.” They get a piece of candy or two, and they’re on their way. But specific to Des Moines, Iowa, the transaction goes a little bit differently. Kids may say, “tricks for treats.” Then they must tell a bad joke…and only then do they get that sweet candy.