This post is for those of you world travelers spending today immersed in a culture far from the USA. I’m sure you’re doing a great job blending in, but you might be receiving just a few more stares than usual today.
Are you the only person for miles around wearing a costume?
Are you the only person for miles around NOT wearing a costume?
Well, my friend, you could be mistaken as to whether or not your country of temporary residence celebrates Halloween.
Here are some fun facts about a few of of the world’s countries that do and do not celebrate Halloween. Some might surprise you.
US & Canada: OF COURSE
Western culture is all the rage in Japan, so now Halloween is, too! And, boy, do they go all out. Costumes, trick-or-treating, parties, parades, plays … Much of the holiday’s success is due to the popularity of Disneyland Tokyo where this photo was taken.
England: NOT SO MUCH
What? All Hallow’s Eve originated in Britain. What gives?
While still observed, Halloween is largely unpopular in England. Rumor has it that Halloween has become such an outrageously festive display in the US that youth in the UK have started attempting to make more of a splash. There is now a huge security problem with “antisocial” behaviors such as egg-bombing and placing lit fireworks in the homes of people who don’t give good candy.
For theses reasons Halloween has declined in popularity in the UK.
Scotland and Ireland: YES
Celtic Halloween or Samhain sounds like a ball, but there are similar security issues in these countries. So beware!
My husband and I learned during our study abroad that Halloween is not really observed in what otherwise is a total party country. On the other hand, traditional Spanish communities throw so many “carnivals” throughout the year involving costumes and candy that I doubt you’ll miss the special night very much at all. Switzerland describes a similar “festival overload.”
NOTE: In many European countries, children of British immigrants still try their hands at trick-or-treating despite the low turnout.
Another common study abroad destination, France has opted to jump on the Halloween bandwagon—but in a much classier way than us Americans. Trick-or-treating is uncommon, as the holiday is mostly for adults who dress up to attend masquerade balls.
No, dressing as Marie Antoinette is not mandatory.
Italy: YES (finally)
Due to the proximity of the Vatican, there was a 17th-century campaign on behalf of the Catholic Church to ban Halloween and other “pagan” holidays from Italy altogether, but thanks to the influence of American pop culture in the 1990s, Trick or Treat (in Italian “Dolcetto o Scherzetto,” literally dessert or joke) is now a household phrase.
Poland & Slovakia: NO
Since All Saints Day is perceived as a very somber occasion, many refuse to join in the “fun” of Halloween.
Hispanic South America: YES
Even though the words have no meaning, children in most Hispanic countries will walk up to neighbors doors and say, “Triqui triqui,” an attempt at the English “Trick or treat.”
You’re thinking of Day of the Dead, which is arguably way cooler than Halloween. The thing about this holiday is that you can’t wear just any costume. You have to dress like this:
So in other words, you have to look totally badass.
Because of a large Catholic population, All Saints Day has long-term roots in the Philippines; however, since these islands are so far-removed from other lands colonized by the West, their traditional All Hallows Eve never morphed into Halloween. Only recently has the tradition of “souling” been replaced by trick-or-treating, and the holiday is still called All Saints Day.
Basically, the Philippines have long celebrated the “non-pagan” version of the holiday that first originated in British Christendom.
Australia: YES (reluctantly)
Another British colony, it’s not surprising that Australia has adopted Halloween traditions. What’s surprising to me is that many Australians are actually resistant to this type of celebration. The Sydney Morning Herald was quoted as saying that many families think of Halloween as that “American import, a satanic ritual, a junk food binge …”
Most people with bad feelings about the holiday, however, just think it’s “too American” and “not really one of our traditions.”
Wherever you are, a Happy Halloween to you!