This may surprise you, but Halloween is actually celebrated in other countries besides just the United States. What also may surprise you is that Halloween didn’t actually originate in America. Instead Halloween is mostly attributed to having beginnings in Ireland (but we’ll discuss that one later). Despite that, what we know of today as the traditional Halloween celebrations including carving pumpkins, trick or treating, and dressing up in costume is very much an American-style way of celebrating.
Of all of the countries mentioned throughout this post, you will find that none of these countries celebrate Halloween on the same scale that America does. I guess you could say we are a bit extra in that way. Some of these countries have Halloween-esque celebrations of their own, and some have only begun to start celebrating Halloween, however reluctantly. And even one country mentioned in this post is trying to ban Halloween from being celebrated all together. I guess not everyone is a fan.
So with that said, what exactly are the other countries who celebrate Halloween? Let’s begin!
10 Countries that Celebrate Halloween Besides America
Where Did Halloween Come From?
First let’s start at the true beginning and address where Halloween came from. Halloween originated in Celtic-speaking countries in England, Ireland, and Northern France. They believed that on this day the souls of the dead and other spirits could easily come into this world and when they did, they needed to be appeased. Offerings of food and drink were left for the spirits, and commonly candles would be lit and prayers were offered to the souls of the dead. Other festivities and rituals would also be done like divination rituals, fortune telling, and apple bobbing.
The festival evolved into people going from house-to-house in costume or disguised as a spirit reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. It was also believed that the disguise protected you from the spirits.
In Scotland, children went house-to-house with painted or blackened faces threatening to do mischief if they weren’t welcomed. This could be one theory for the origin of children going “trick or treating”. These pranksters also used hallowed out turnips with carved out faces (we now use pumpkins) as lanterns. These lanterns were said to either represent the spirits themselves or were used as protection against the spirits.
Throughout the years the customs of how to celebrate Halloween has of course changed. But there you have it, it is mostly Ireland and other Celtic-speaking countries that were the originators of Halloween.
So with that said, let’s start with Ireland! For being the birthplace of Halloween, they do not celebrate it nearly on the same scale as the US does, but you will find no where else does it quite like the USA. Despite that, Halloween is still a big event in Ireland. Northern Ireland actually has the largest Halloween attraction located in Derry/Londonderry. Here you’ll find The Derry Halloween Festival where they put on a fancy parade throughout the city followed by a fireworks display.
The pubs are also crowded with people dressed up – similar as you would find the US.
Mexicans (and most Latin American countries for that matter) do celebrate Halloween, which is called Dia de las Brujas in Spanish. Mexican children wear costumes and go trick or treating asking for candy saying, queremos Halloween, “we want Halloween”.
Even though Halloween is celebrated, it is greatly overshadowed by Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) which falls close to Halloween on November 2nd. Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos on a much larger scale and view it as a festive occasion with parties, dancing, singing, and fireworks!
As you can imagine celebrating Halloween wasn’t originally apart of Japanese culture. It’s only within the past decade or two that Japan as a whole has begun to take a larger interest in Halloween. This is largely in thanks to Tokyo Disneyland and other aspects of Halloween commercialism. However the idea of “trick or treating” and going from house-to-house hasn’t quite caught on. And there’s no sign in the foreseeable future of this being apart of Japanese culture.
So you might ask, what is the appeal of Halloween for Japan? The Japanese enjoy the commercialism aspect, and the costumes. Mostly you’ll find Halloween is celebrated mostly among adults who want to dress up and have a costume party or out for a fun Halloween event in Tokyo, Osaka, or another major city.
Two or three decades ago, Halloween in Italy was not a thing. At best Italians may have seen it from American movies and TV shows, but that was the extent of it. Similar to Mexican traditions, Italians have their own public holiday called Ognissanti or Tutti i Santi for All Saint’s Day, which is celebrated on November 1st to remember the saints. Then on November 2nd they celebrate All Souls Day, which is Il giorno dei Morti or The Day of the Dead. On this day it is common to go to the cemetery of the deceased to pay respects, and as you can imagine, Italy doesn’t celebrate anything without food. Each region has its own variation on dolci dei morti (sweets of the dead) which are treats meant to sweeten the bitterness of death. On this day it is common to eat apple cake or even a simple white biscuit.
However the North American traditions of Halloween have been embraced by Italy and you will now see carved pumpkins, kids dressed in costumes, Halloween parties at local restaurants and clubs, and even in Rome you will find Halloween tours of the catacombs and nearby medieval castles.
Celebrating Halloween in Sweden is relatively new as well, and began to pick up in popularity around the 1990’s. This is largely in thanks to well done commercial marketing. Halloween is mainly celebrated by children and teenagers, and the Swedes have even adopted other American-type traditions like pumpkin carving and trick or treating. It looks like Halloween is here to stay for Sweden. Some are not happy about it, but even neighboring countries like Norway have begun to celebrate Halloween.
As we’ve found with other countries, Sweden (and Norway) also celebrates All Saints Day, which falls on November 3rd. It is traditionally a time to pay respect to saints, visit the graves of loved ones, and light candles in remembrance.
Western celebrations of Halloween has made it’s way to China mostly from foreign teachers sharing western holidays with Chinese children. These children might make some decorations and get some Halloween candy, but in general, Halloween still isn’t widely celebrated in China.
This could be largely to due with the fact that the Chinese have their own similar holidays where they honor the dead. These festivals include the Hungry Ghost Festival (which is the most similar to Halloween), the Qing Ming Festival, the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar (the scariest month of the year), and the Chinese Spring Festival.
Halloween has made it’s way to Switzerland, but this newer festival isn’t quite as popular or celebrated with as much fervor as other traditional Swiss festivals. Shops and stores will put out Halloween decorations and costumes however, very few decorate their homes or dress up in costume. The Swiss much prefer to dress up for another popular festival call Carnival, which is celebrated after New Years.
For the most part, it is mainly Halloween-themed parties, bars and discos that celebrate Halloween, along with some events such as Halloween ghost tours.
Halloween in Russia has actually turned a tad controversial. The popularity of Halloween began in the 1990’s, however in recent years an ongoing war on Halloween has begun. Certain regions in Russia have banned Halloween because they believe it is harmful for children, and it goes against their Christian beliefs and will destroy the traditional values of Russia.
Currently Halloween appears to only be celebrated by the youth who just want an excuse to wear a costume and go to a nightclub.
Australians have embraced Halloween! It may still be considered an “American thing”, but the Aussies do partake in many aspects of Halloween including trick or treating and pumpkin carving. Depending on where you go in Australia it may be hit or miss (it’s a large country after all), but the popularity is on the rise. Some homes are decorated in Halloween decor and it’s also popular to go to a Halloween party and dress up in costume.
Many believe Halloween to be a harmless bit of fun, while others are against the American-style Halloween because it’s well, American.
Halloween is celebrated in the Philippines, however it is quite different than the traditional American-style Halloween. Halloween is a popular and big holiday that lasts from October 31st to November 2nd. The Philippines have a strong Catholic background. Similar to the Latin American-stye of celebrating Halloween, November 1st and 2nd are spent remembering the loved ones who have deceased. It is common to visit a cemetery or a memorial park on these days.
Unlike the western traditions of pumpkins and trick or treating, the Filipinos celebrate it through candles, flowers, prayers, and visiting the cemetery. Although this may sound like a very serious matter, the Filipinos have made spending Halloween in a cemetery a fun event. It is looked at as a mini family reunion where tents and chairs are put out and there is music, karaoke, board games, and food and drink.
So, around the world Halloween is beginning to be celebrated more and more in other countires. Of course there are more countries than just the ones mentioned that celebrate Halloween, but this is still a pretty good list and provides a concise idea of how Halloween is celebrated in other countries.
Where are you from and do you celebrate Halloween? Let me know in the comments below!
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Tiffany created Lavender Vines as a place to share her love for Jesus and adventures from around the world. She has a slight obsession with salted caramel lattes, Japanese kimonos, and an ongoing love affair with NYC and Paris.