This Is What Halloween Looks Like Around The World

This Is What Halloween Looks Like Around The World

Halloween may be an American tradition, but its roots go way back. All the best superstitions of the Roman, Celtic, Catholic and European folk traditions, as well as good old American greed, have morphed into the modern-day celebration of Halloween. Second only to Christmas in spending, this superstition-rich amalgam of a holiday has become a celebration of our need to embrace our more base desires. See how countries around the world put their own spooky spin on Halloween, as well as honor spirits from beyond the grave.


United States

Where Christmas celebrates good cheer, Halloween has become a night for  sybaritic revelry in the United States. It’s a chance to mask our socially-accepted selves and explore the darker side of our nature in a fun, harmless manner. What started in Europe as a day to cast out evil spirits and keep them from ruining crops or starting other mayhem, has become a celebration of self-indulgence -- especially for children, who get to dress up and go from house to house demanding “trick or treat!” Big Halloween events in the US include: Guavaween, Tampa, FL; Festival of the Dead, Salem, MA; West Hollywood Halloween Carnival, West Hollywood, CA; and Fetish & Fantasy Halloween Ball, Las Vegas.


The French are not typically fain to adopt any celebration with a bourgeois whiff to it, but in recent years, with the help of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Francophile ex-pats, Halloween is taking root in France. And, of course, the French love to dress up and have a party. The jury is still out on if Halloween is gonna stick, but you can be sure that when Yves St. Laurent puts a Halloween costume on the fashion runway, the French take notice. The town of Limoges, goes all out each year with a parade of ghosts and ghouls, and the American Dream Diner in Paris celebrates Halloween robustly as well.


No nation celebrates the dead with festivities better than Mexico. In fact, “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), is celebrated over several days, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. It’s not Halloween at all, but rather a way that All Souls Day comes to life in Mexico. The celebration offers a chance to remember the deceased, tell their stories and celebrate their lives. Family feasts, skull-shaped sweets, lots of tequila, dancing and mariachi music, as well as parades of people dressed as skeletons, all ensure that one’s ancestors are well remembered. The celebration is embraced across Mexico, with huge festivities even in the smallest of villages.


The traditional birthplace of Halloween, Ireland is, naturally, home to one of the biggest celebrations: the Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival in County Meath, where an ancient Celtic festival we now know as Halloween began more than 2,000 years ago. Throughout the country, Halloween is welcomed with bonfires, party games and traditional food, such as barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, rings and other fortunetelling objects; and, of course, beer (among other drinks of choice). Fortunetelling is part of the old Irish Halloween tradition. If a young woman gets a ring that has been baked in a pastry or bread or even mashed potatoes, then she’ll be married by next Halloween. Tricks are also part of the Irish Halloween scene. Kids knock on doors, then run away before the doors get opened by the owner. Hopefully, this takes place after they’ve already acquired the candy during a previous foray through the neighborhood.


Straw Bear Day, Germany


straw bears day


At the end of every winter, the men in southwestern Germany wrap themselves up in straw and parade around to drive away the cold.

The celebration takes place the day before Ash Wednesday, in 2016 it will be Feb. 9, but nightmares of men in straw bear suits go year round.

Araw ng mga Patay, Philippines


Philippines All Saint's Day


Each year, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, people in the Philippines meet in the cemetery to clean their relatives’ graves. Spending time cleaning the graves shows a love and respect for deceased loved ones — but the cleaning quickly turns into a party.

There’s an elaborate picnic-style feast in between the graves and many people stay in the cemetery overnight.

Pchum Ben, Cambodia




Pchum Ben is a 15-day celebration in the middle of October. For two weeks, the gates to hell are left open and ghosts are able to pass through to the side of the living. Pchum Ben offers ancestors who ended up in hell respite from eternal damnation.

The living relatives go to the pagoda and leave offerings for their dead relatives, who will in turn bless them for the upcoming year.

Yu Lan, China



The Hungry Ghost Festival lasts one month, and during this time restless spirits are said to wander around.

During this time, the Chinese are supposed to acquiesce to the spirits' wishes and leave out offerings. Elaborate Chinese operas are performed in the street for passersby — living or dead.

Obon, Japan



IMAGE: Flickr/Vol'tordu

The three-day Obon festival is a Japanese-Buddhist ceremony honoring one's ancestors. Using paper lanterns, the Japanese send their ancestors' spirits back to their eternal resting place — until they come back the next year.

Famadihana, Madagascar



IMAGE: Flickr/Frank Janssens

Famadihana takes place every winter in Madagascar.

Madagascans take out the bones of their dead ancestors, clean them off, wrap them in silk scarves, spray some perfume, dance with them around the tomb, and put them back in the ground. Each family puts on the elaborate ceremony once every seven years.

Nyepi Day, Bali



IMAGE: Flickr/Dani Stein

This day of silence marks Bali's new year, and on this day the entire island basically shuts down. But the day before, ogoh-ogoh (demonic looking figurines) are paraded about the town and burned, driving out all the bad spirits and negative energy.

La Calabiuza, El Salvador



IMAGE: Flickr/Robert Easton

On Nov. 1, citizens of Tonacatepeque, El Salvador celebrate a sort of anti-Halloween. Rooted in Spanish custom, a parade of papier mâché masks travels down to the town square for a party that could have inspired a Tim Burton movie.

Walpurgisnacht, Germany




Apr. 30 is Walpurgisnacht, when witches and warlocks come out to welcome spring.

Bonfires are built and, if real witches cannot be found, people dress up in tangled wigs and hooked noses to dance around the fire with a broomstick all night long.

Fet Gede, Haiti


Haiti Day of the Dead


This voodoo holiday is celebrated in Haiti on Nov. 1. People dance and drink rum while voodoo spirits descend upon the island, demanding gifts.

For those who do not offer something to the dead, results are said to be disastrous. There are stories of spirits crashing into the president's house, demanding money. (He of course paid.)