Halloween Around the World

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

Japan: YES

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!

Spain: NO

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.

France: YES

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.”

Mexico: NO

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.

Philippines: YES

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!

"Stockholm in My Heart"


I know it’s no excuse, but Travel Tuesday has taken a nosedive amidst my efforts to weed through and edit seventy-three billion six hundred and nine kajillion photos of Stockholm, Sweden.

What can I say? The two days Josh and I spent in Stockholm were absolutely magical (despite the fact that I was in the middle of one of the longest and most intense IC flareups of my life. What does that tell you?) Stockholm is one of those places you love to just be. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Just taking in all of the colors, the culture, the crowds–it makes the experience worthwhile.

Title is from this fabulous Swedish pop song “Stockholm I Mitt Hjärta.”



This is what the Swedes dress like.

I’m kidding. Of course they don’t 🙂 This was a traditional Swedish festival that was going on downtown right as we arrived in Stockholm. Talk about luck! Josh and I even stopped to pose with a beautiful older couple in traditional garb. Who knows? Maybe this is how their parents dressed when this couple was growing up.

There was also a street dance festival going on while we were in town. What a weekend to pick, huh? There also happened to be a marathon going on. That wasn’t so great. Lots of roads blocked off.

Anyway! The art culture of Sweden is just so vibrant. The crowds that turned up for these dancing street performers where so thick I literally couldn’t get a single picture of the actual dancing! Plan on more than just a handful of posts about architecture, sculpture, decor, and street art out the wazoo.



A guard at the royal palace

Most Swedes practice a daily ritual called fika. While it’s not unusual for the average American to have a cup of coffee in the morning and then head off to work in an office that keeps a pot of coffee on hand, a Swedish office will actually close for about 15 minutes in the mid-morning and again mid-afternoon so that everyone can take a break and fuel up on caffeine and a pastry of some kind.

And I thought the Spaniards were big on coffee!


More gorgeous pics of the most special city in Europe after the jump!


"And Something Tells Me That There’s Still Time" (Windsor, England)

I totally failed at Travel Tuesday yesterday, but on the bright side, here are some more long-awaited picture from our London and Ireland trip! Today’s pics are from our favorite daytrip while in England–Windsor Castle. This small village gem is the Queen’s current weekend home, but many of the rooms have been restored to what they would have looked like in the 1700’s when the castle was first inhabited!

The sun was playing hide and seek all day, but the weather was sunny and the sky clear for the majority of our pictures, if only for a few moments. Sadly, there was no photography allowed inside the castle itself :-(. This was a real disappointment because the well-preserved baroque architecture was simply breathtaking.

One thing that sort of made up for this letdown was the audio guide, surprisingly enough. Josh and I have never been huge guided tour people, but this audio guide really impressed us. There were sound effects, music, very engaging and intelligent-sounding narrators (who doesn’t sound intelligent with a British accent?), and audio clips from actual British monarchs and their associates.

All in all, it was a very rewarding day. Our only regret is that we had to leave too soon.

Title is from the song “Windsor” by Michou.

More pics of Windsor after the jump!

What I Wore: Miss America

Target jacket and t-shirt (the shirt is Josh’s), DIY tie-dye corduroys, and Payless boots

Yes, we’re still wearing jackets here in Avila. Sometime full-blown winter coats. I think this particular freckle on the face of Spain is a little confused when it comes to the seasons, because it reached sunny and 70 in January here while it is now rainy and (if we’re lucky) 50.

On the other hand, I could really care less, because in a little over three weeks, I will be enjoying Rochester‘s balmy spring weather. And you know what? I really couldn’t care less if it wasn’t sunny in my hometown right now. I’m so excited to go back to my busy life.

Not that the break hasn’t been absolutely lovely and the experience of a lifetime. It’s as if Josh and I got to have a gap year and work towards our college degrees at the same time. How many young married couples get to do that? No, we’re really at a place right now where we’re excited about everything. We can’t wait to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of our last few weeks in Avila, every drop of knowledge out of our last few Spanish classes, and every memorable moment out of our final trip–our friend-filled trip to Sweden; but of course, we also can’t wait to return to the US.

I may be a world traveler now, but I am also an American girl. 

While I wouldn’t trade the mind-opening opportunities I have encountered here in Europe for anything, I miss the breadth of opportunities my home country has consistently provided for me all of my life. I am thrilled to be able to return to take advantage of them with new appreciation.

Take that, Avila weather!

Semana Santa en Avila

The above picture from the procession that kicked off the start of the Holy Week celebrations here in Avila gives an accurate representation of where the minds of the majority of Spaniards are come Easter Sunday. They are more focused on the sacrifice of Christ’s death than the impact of His resurrection, and they are certainly more concerned with the pain (emotional, I’m assuming) that His mother endured than I have ever been in my Protestant-American life.

Interestingly enough, in the words of one of my dear Spanish professors (translated, of course), “Sunday doesn’t mean anything to us except that the parties are over.” I’m sure that is not the mindset of every Spaniard, but it seemed as though Sunday came and went just like any other day in Spain.

Below is a video taken the first night of Semana Santa. Compared to processions or parades in the US, this one is very dark and frightening at first glance–it’s nighttime, the procession is very slow, and talking is strongly discouraged. Unfortunately, due to the poor lighting, it was very hard to get a good photo of the most interesting hats some of those in the procession were wearing (Click here to see). And if that doesn’t freak you out at night, I don’t know what will! The explanation is quite simple: these costumes originated in Spain to show an act of penance, but it was employed by another notorious group in the US for different reasons. Despite the “creepiness” factor, I have to say I never seen anything like it, and to experience it in person, was fascinating!

 Comment below to tell me what you think!

My English Interpretation of "Silencio"

Josh and I often have slightly obsessive tendencies when it comes to new favorite things. For example, I am currently on my fifth time in an hour listening to this song by Nelly Furtado and Josh Groban. 

Not only is “Silencio” a stunning example of Spanish music and poetry; it is a beautiful blend of the talents and styles of two very different artists meeting in the enchanting medium of the Spanish language. 

Nelly Furtado is famous in pop circles for using Spanish as a hip and sexy vehicle for dance anthems and hits more commonly found in the club than in the iTunes playlists of nerds like Josh and I . . .  

Josh Groban, on the other hand, sings in Spanish, Italian, French, and other aptly named romance languages in a classical and dramatized manner that emphasizes poetic lyrics and melody more than a catchy beat or breakup angst. Much more popular with nerds 🙂

Who would have thought that the infusion of these two styles could create such an emotional, rhythmic, and vocally electrifying piece of art?

To bring my own personal art form of choice into this ever-so-inspiring song (and to get in some Spanish practice) I decided to translate the lyrics into English. I took some poetic license in the sense that I tried to stay as close to the literal Spanish meanings as possible while still creating a lyric that sounded beautiful in English as well.

I hope you enjoy it!

by Nelly Mendez Furtado and Julio Reyes Lester
(English translation by Jessica Thurston)

Air, wind, and in my soul–
The fire drowns it,
and only the cold remains.
Very slowly and without destiny,
I weakly carry the weight of anguish

If you’re not here,
There is no way to exist.
I have to wake up.
I have to come alive again.
It’s an immense void.
There is no love here anymore.
Maybe I should surrender
And suffer in silence
Silence . . . Silence . . . Silence

Before, the sun was my blessing
Now its rays burn me for no reason

Before, I believed without a doubt in my gut
Now it’s as fragile as a wounded animal

If you’re not here,
There is no way to exist.
I have to wake up.
I have to come alive again.
It’s an immense void.
There is no love here anymore.
Maybe I should surrender
And suffer in silence


Where the sun doesn’t hurt anymore,
My soul goes free.
I‘ll wait for you,
And it will be until eternity,
My love . . . 

If you’re not here,
There is no way to exist.
I have to wake up.
I have to come alive again.
It’s an immense void.
There is no love here anymore.
Maybe I should surrender
And suffer in silence
. . .
Silence . . . Silence . . . Silence

"Tea For Two and Two for Tea" (London/Dublin)

Dear friend Kristen met up with us in Dublin after Josh and I had spent five days in London on our own. Having visited London in the past with her family, Kristen was somewhat mortified that I had not regularly indulged in the British joy that is tea and scones.

Much to both of our delights, upon visiting the beautiful seaside town of Howth (pronounced “Hooth”) on the eastern shore of Dublin, we discovered a deliciously homey tearoom at the start of the pier. I didn’t need any encouragement, but Kristen definitely wanted me to go.

In the absence of chai (sad day), we ordered a pot of simple green tea, but there was nothing simple about the scoop of dried grasses, lavender, and leaves that was scooped into our teabag. We each enjoyed two cups of the lively beverage–Kristen plain (such a purist) and me with cream and three lumps of sugar each :-). Teehee. I’m sure a scone would have been quite authentic, but who can say ‘no’ to a spiced muffin with chocolate chips?

They had rosebud tea! I’ll have to try that some time.

What was most lovely about this experience was the atmosphere of the tea room. There were comfy antique chairs and sofas and a cozy reading corner. All of the colors were warm and inviting and just asking to be photographed.

Kristen and I sat here while at least an hour passed by without us noticing. We chatted, sipped, munched, and missed our train home while Josh and some other friends hiked the cliffs surrounding Howth’s peninsula.

Scones or not, I will never forget my first real teatime just outside of Dublin, Ireland.

Title from Doris Day’s “Tea for Two.”

More tasty pictures after the jump!

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: It’s Spring Somewhere

Even the ciguenas look cold!


  • It is unusually sunny and warm in both London and Dublin today, but I wouldn’t know because I’m back in Avila where it is inexplicably snowing and raining at the same time.
  • The Hunger Games comes out tomorrow, and I missed being able to go see it in an English-language theater by two days! 
  • Pret a Manger. It’s a really popular cafe chain in the UK. How does one pret and why do it to a manger? And in a cafe, no less!
  • There is no such thing as a double-decker bus in England. All the “buses” are double-decker. If they’re not, they’re called “coaches.” Mind blown.
  • Coriander and cilantro are the same thing. Mind also blown.
  • Tummy ache from too much candy.
  • I’m really not much of a romantic comedy girl, but being in Ireland has me really itching to watch P.S. I Love You again.
  • The horrendous and poorly made boots that (barely) got me through England and Ireland and were sliced into a pair of summer sandals the minute I got home. My blistered and bruised feet will never be the same . . .
  • So, we meet again, London Gatwick, for another rough all-nighter on the airport floor. After all we’ve been through together, you still send your snooty security guards to kick me off of the comfy sofa in the cafe and force our crew to seek refuge (and a precious few hours of sleep in the multi-religion prayer chapel).

  • Hitting up an old time sweets shop in Dublin. Root beer barrels, black cherry sours, and licorice allsorts until I die ❤
  • The Cliffs of Moher. Here is a heavily-censored description of these breathtaking beauties from an Irish friend: “It’s the mother-friggin’ edge o’ the world where they make weather an’ crap!” We’ll just go with breathtaking.
  • Our tour guide on the trip out to Galway. Hi-LAR-ious. And Irish people in general. Hi-LAR-ious.
  • Not getting drunk on St. Paddy’s Day in Ireland :-D. No hangovers. No regrets. Tons of memories.
  • Hubby letting me use his laptop since my keyboard is broken. I’m sure it was a real sacrifice swapping from a clunky Dell to a superfast gaming computer ;-). The mouse works just fine, after all.
  • Free Irish music and dancing. Free! And Irish!
  • British fashion and lifestyle magazines. It’s a whole new world of print media love.
  • This six-level bar in Dublin called The Porterhouse. It has so many staircases, and the live music practically hangs from the ceiling. Plus they have the most legit and delicious-looking cocktail menu I have ever seen. Kristen and I got food instead because we are hungry and poor.
  • The bucketloads of new friends from Madrid, Barcelona, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Canada, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Australia, and China whom Josh and I met at the hostel and whom I hope with all of my heart that we will be able to keep in touch with forever.

"Green With Eyes Between" (London Hampstead)

It’s likely the most common color on earth as long as you don’t venture into the ocean. This being the case, I hadn’t realized how the red clay cliffs and plains of Spain had caused me to miss out on weeks of this budding symbol of vibrancy and life. I hadn’t realized how much the Hampstead Heath in London would remind me of the hills and forests of New York or PA.
In short, I hadn’t realized until now how homesick I am.
On the bright side, Ireland is full of lush greens of every hue. On the dark and gloomy side, every vista I see here will force me to swallow a lump in my throat made up of twenty years of memories from back in the good old US of A.
To all of my stateside family and friends reading this, know that Josh and I miss you more than you may realize.
Title from “Homesick” by The Vines.