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The Halloween history of Halloween around the world dates back into the Middle Ages and is widely believed to have originated in Celtic speaking countries related to the festival of Samhain.  The word Halloween is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve(n), referring to the day before the Christian festival of All Hallow’s Day, celebrated on November 1st.  The word Halloween dates back to the mid 1700s.

Halloween around the world

There are many countries that celebrate Halloween, and the Halloween customs and Halloween traditions vary in how people celebrate Halloween around the world.  Here is a brief rundown of Halloween legends, Halloween customs and Halloween traditions around the world.  If you’re wondering how long has Halloween been celebrated, it depends on what you’re asking.  Halloween defined as trick or treating is most prevalent in the United States, though the number of countries that celebrate Halloween in that manner is definitely increasing!

North America: Halloween in Mexico, Canada and the United States

In the United States, Halloween is typically celebrated by costumes for children and adults with trick or treating very prevalent.  Halloween around the world is being influenced by the American version of the Halloween customs, though often mixed with local Halloween traditions.  In the USA, Halloween is now the 2nd most popular holiday for decorating (behind Christmas).  In addition to trick-or-treating on October 31st, many communities and organizations have “trunk or treats” where families get together and parents or others pass out candy to costumed kids out of the trunks of their cars.

a car trunk full of pumpkins

Does Canada celebrate Halloween?  Yup, Halloween traditions in Canada are very similar to the Halloween traditions in the United States.  Canadians spend more money on candy at Halloween than at any time except for Christmas

Halloween in Mexico is typically called Día de Muertos (Day of the dead) and is much more focused on honoring and remembering the dead.  Throughout Mexico the custom is typically to honor dead children and infants on November 1 (Día de los Inocentes or Día de los Angelitos), and to honor deceased adults on November 2 (Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos).  Halloween in Mexico (Día de Brujas) in the typical American way (i.e. trick or treating) is also becoming more and more prevalent as a way to celebrate Halloween in Mexico

Halloween is also gaining popularity in the Dominican Republic – in larger cities you may see trick or treaters, though it is still not celebrated much in smaller towns and villages.

Halloween in Europe: Halloween in Germany, France, Spain and England

Is Halloween celebrated in Europe?  Typically yes, though it depends on where in Europe you are at!

Halloween in Germany

Halloween in Germany was not very well known until about the 1990s, but has been increasing in popularity.  Trick or treating on October 31 is not very prevalent in much of Germany and Austria, in part due to the German tradition of Martinstag, a similar holiday which happens on November 11th

Halloween in Spain

Does Spain celebrate Halloween?  As you might expect, the emphasis on Halloween in Spain is similar to that of Mexico (and other Latin American and Spanish speaking countries) – less on the door to door trick or treating and more on honoring the dead

Halloween in England, Scotland, Ireland and the UK

Halloween in England has crossover participation with Guy Fawkes day, which happens on November 5th.  As is the case with Halloween in Germany, Halloween in England (in terms of trick or treating, costume parties and such) has been increasing over the past several years.


CC BY 2.0 by Caleb Zahnd

Halloween in Scotland actually was the birth of the word Halloween – a shortening of All Hallows Even (the day before All Hallow’s Day).  One of the most popular Halloween customs in Scotland is apple dookin’ (dunking), similar to the US game of bobbing for apples

Halloween in Ireland has been going on for centuries and Halloween traditions in Ireland have a lot of overlap with how Halloween is celebrated in Canada, the US and other countries.  Bonfires, pumpkins, costumes and trick or treating are all very prevalent with Halloween in Ireland

Halloween customs in the rest of Europe

Halloween in France is not typically celebrated; same goes for Halloween in Switzerland.  In Romania, the church urges parishioners to focus on the Day of the Dead celebrations on November 1st.  Halloween in Russia is one of the “western” traditions that the Russian government are trying to eliminate from public celebration.  Halloween in Sweden is tied into the Swedish tradition of Alla Helgons Dag (All Saint’s Day), though typical American celebrations of Halloween such as trick-or-treating and costume parties are only starting to become more practiced

All Saints Day at Sweden's Skogskyrkogården Credit: Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons

All Saints Day at Sweden’s Skogskyrkogården
Credit: Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons

Halloween in Asia

Although Halloween has its origins in European and American culture, Halloween in Asia is starting to be celebrated more and more

Halloween in Japan

Does Japan celebrate Halloween? Halloween in Japan has started becoming more popular over the past decade, primarily by younger adults attending costume parties.  Japan Halloween celebrations do NOT typically include trick-or-treating by young children, at least outside predominantly ex-pat neighborhoods.

Halloween in China

Halloween in China is not typically celebrated, especially in mainland China.  Some parts of Hong Kong do celebrate Halloween, though trick or treating by children is not typically done due to geography.  China does celebrate the “Hungry Ghost festival” on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month (currently in July)

Halloween in the rest of Asia

There are some celebrations of Halloween in Singapore, the Phillipines and the rest of Asia, but it is typically done in areas with a lot of foreigners (westerners) and trick-or-treating is not as prevalent as it is in the United States or other European countries.  Halloween in Korea is not something that is widely celebrated, though Halloween celebrations are starting to become more popular

Looking for the perfect Halloween ideas for your party? Here are traditions on food, costumes and crafts for kids, couples and family from around the world

Halloween in Australia, New Zealand and Halloween in other countries

Halloween in Australia is not part of typical Australian culture, though as in most of the rest of the world, it is becoming more practiced.  In Australia, houses that are participating in Halloween in Australia often tie a balloon or other marker to the mailbox (in lieu of leaving the light on the porch).  Remember that Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, so Halloween in October occurs in the Australian spring going into summer.

Halloween in New Zealand is only recently starting to become more popular as retail outlets begin selling more and more costumes, prompting kids (and their parents!) to start trick-or-treating.  Halloween in New Zealand is not celebrated as much it is in the western world.

Halloween in other countries is typically celebrated in relation to the spread of foreign (and especially North American) culture.

I hope that you have enjoyed this look at Halloween around the world.  I encourage you to get out there and see some of the different Halloween traditions that are happening as countries celebrate Halloween around the world

What has your experience been regarding Halloween customs and Halloween traditions while traveling?

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