Happy Halloween everybody!
Ah October… and with the coming of fall, the annual migration of Spirit stores begins their long-awaited return to their natural habitats – the defunct shops in America’s strip malls. And it is also when die-hard Halloween fans begin their 31-day celebration and count down.
For a lot of American’s, Halloween is going to look a little bit different this year. Many neighborhoods will not be indulging in their door to door trick or treating, and parties are even more of a non-event in the age of back and forth lockdowns.
But that’s American Halloween and this year, for the first time in my life, I am not in America for the celebration of this joyous holiday season. If you’re new around these parts, you may not know that I have recently been accepted into Grad School and have subsequently moved from sunny south Florida to slightly less than sunny south Sweden. As such, I’ve been asking around my Swedish friends and relatives to see what kind of festivities I can expect and the reports have been… mixed, to say the least.
Halloween as it is currently known and celebrated is an American Holiday, but, as with most forms of American entertainment, it has been exported across the globe in various forms.
It helps that Halloween is based on an ancient holiday that is reflected in numerous cultures as being a significant date on the calendar (full moon, end of harvest, fall equinox, etc) Those cultures created their own version of the Holiday moving forward through time.
So… what exactly does Halloween look like all across the globe?
Halloween is a relatively new concept in Sweden, first introduced in the ’90s by American TV shows and movies but rapidly caught on. The holiday is celebrated over an entire week from October 31st to November 6th with “Alla Helgons Dag” (All Saints Day) kicking off the school’s autumn break. It’s really not surprising the holiday caught on as much as it did. By fall the days are short and the nights are long and cold. There are few celebrations at this point of the year either, so having a release in mid-fall is incredibly valuable.
Unfortunately, as the kick-off of a school holiday, Halloween is mostly celebrated by kids and teenagers, though adult celebrations are becoming more common in certain party prone areas of major cities and some bars and restaurants have begun celebrating the holiday in earnest as a way to encourage people to come out of their homes in the break autumn days.
Halloween is not an actual holiday in Iceland but is becoming adopted more by people as a sort of pop culture reference common among kids. The interesting thing about the Icelandic tradition is that while the kids are having fun with the holiday itself, the adults have taken a liking to what they have been calling “Hallovin” which literally means “Hello Wine”.
All Saints Day
Versions of All Saints Day are celebrated all over the globe, typically followed by All Souls Day on November 2. A part of the Catholic tradition, family members typically visit the graves of loved ones.
Various countries add in their own traditions. In Germany, they hide the knives to that spirits cannot hurt themselves or others. Denmark has combined candles on graves with trick or treating. Finland uses the holiday as an excuse for partying and hanging out with friends. In Poland flowers accompany the candles on graves. In Italy, there is a single red candle placed in windows but fields worth of flowers adorn graves and cemeteries in a beautiful display of color.
The most well-known example of these celebrations is of course Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead. The Mexican celebration of All Saints Day. This holiday, long since iconized by candy skulls, tourist boards, and Disney movies, holds a deep cultural significance for many.
Perhaps slightly predictable but the reported castle of Vlad “The Impaler”, that is to say, the original Dracula, is an understandable hot spot for Halloween celebrations. Although the castle where most celebrations are held is under some debate as to whether or not Vlad had ever been there, the celebrations definitely more than make up for any lack of historical accuracy.
About a month earlier, mid-August to mid-September, Honk Kong celebrates the Hungry Ghost Festival to “feed” spirits who grow restless around this time of year and wander the world. Paper burning and food offerings are common across many countries in East Asia around this time of year, but the Hungry Ghost Festival itself is unique to Hong Kong.
The Kawasaki Halloween parade is a relatively new celebration, only about twenty years old, but is the largest Halloween parade of it’s kind and attracts nearly 4000 participants. All of whom must have applied for entry nearly two months in advance.
Samhain is often regarded as the ‘original’ Halloween, deriving from an ancient Pagan and Celtic holiday thousands of years old and still practiced to a smaller degree across Ireland and Scotland. Bonfires, traditional foods, superstitions and fortune-telling rule the night. you can check out more on Samhain and it’s relation to modern-day Halloween Here.
The Awuru Odo festival hands down puts most other Halloween traditions to shame. This celebration of the return of friends and family members back to the living can last up to Six Months. Celebrated with music feasts and the traditional masks, participants celebrate the lives and spirits of those who have gone in full joyous fashion before the dead must return to the spirit world. This ritual holds huge cultural importance as it celebrates those who have left us as if they were still here, much like Dia de los Muertos and other modern versions of All Hallows Eve. Unlike other versions of the tradition, however, Awuru Odo is celebrated only once every two years as the spirits return to earth.
While I will undoubtedly be missing out on the trick-or-treating, bar crawls, haunted houses and Halloween Horror Nights this year, I look forward to celebrating Halloween in whatever way I can in my new home.
What does Halloween look like where you are from? With so many varied traditions across the globe, how does your family or culture or home town partake in this spookiest of celebrations?
However you celebrate, I hope to with you a fantastically joyous
You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.