Halloween around the world

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When most students think of Halloween, they think of trick-or-treating, parades, bobbing for apples and other family fun activities—a time of celebration and superstition. But do your students know the true origin of the holiday?

Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared 1 November as All Saint’s Day, a time to honour all saints and martyrs. The evening before was known as All Hallow’s Eve, and later Halloween.

Over time, Halloween has evolved into a secular, community based event that is today highly commercialized—at least in some parts of the world. In others, Halloween looks a little bit different.

In Ireland, kids do dress up and go trick-or-treating, but parties and games are also popular. A favourite is called Snap Apple, in which an apple is tied to a door frame with a piece of string and people try to bite it. Fruitcake is a popular treat.

Food is also an important Halloween staple in Austria, but perhaps not quite in the way you’d expect. Before Austrian’s go to bed on Halloween night, they place bread and water on the table and a light a lamp to welcome dead souls back to earth.

Known as Yue Lan in Hong Kong, or Festival of the Hungry Souls, pictures of fruit or money are burned to offer comfort to the ghosts in the spirit world—which are believed to roam the earth for 24 hours.

If you don’t think that’s a long time, consider Alla Helgons Day in Sweden, where the holiday is celebrated with activities throughout the week. On Halloween day, schools lets out early so kids can trick-or-treat.

In Mexico, Spain, and other Latin countries, Halloween is a three-day festival known as El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. The celebration includes parades and costumes—perhaps one of the most popular parties for the deceased.

But Germans are not so trusting. It is custom there to hide all of the knives on Hallow’s Eve to avoid being attacked by a walking spirit.

Japan doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but bright red lanterns are hung and placed on rivers to float during the Obon Festival. The lights are believed to guide the ancestral spirits. And in Korea, Halloween is known as Chuseok, a time to thank their ancestors for all of their sacrifices. But you won’t find Koreans at family graves in October—their Halloween is celebrated in August.

Regardless of where you are in the world today, we wish you a safe Halloween!

~ The Teachers Media Team 

Photo Credit: “Header image: BY- Pexels / Creative Commons

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