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Halloween Trivia: How Halloween is Celebrated Around the World

One of the oldest celebrated holidays, Halloween is a traditional festival which is observed by many countries around the world. Derived from ancient rites and rituals, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

Even though Halloween is said to have its roots in Ireland, these days it has become a somewhat secular holiday and is celebrated with equal gusto in Canada, United States, Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Bonfires are lit, as in the old days of the Celts, with children wearing costumes and partaking in trick or treat games with pastries and sweets as prizes.

Wondering where to travel for Halloween this year? Check out how the following cultures and countries celebrate. Or, if you’re staying at home, why not use these fun facts for your Halloween trivia questions!

Halloween in Ireland …

If you’ve ever wondered who invented Halloween, it was the Irish. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the region today known as Ireland, celebrated their new year on November 1.

In terms of celebrating Halloween in Ireland today, the Irish are known to indulge in a card game, where money and candy are covered with cards face down. The card then chosen by a person, gets what is found below it.

A traditional food, known as barmbrack (which is kind of like a fruit cake) is made available in the stores. Buried inside is a secret treat that is said to predict your future; for example, a ring would mean marriage, while a bit of straw foretells a prosperous time in the coming months.

Halloween in Latin America, Mexico and Spain

In Latin America, Mexico, and Spain, Halloween celebrations begin early on the evening of October 31st. The day marks the return of the dead back to their homes on earth, and is a dark night of terror and mischief.

Following Halloween is two days of festivities which ends on November 2, called Day of the Dead. In an explosion of color and life-affirming joy, families gather at the respective graveyards to picnic and party.

This is a joyous holiday famous for amazing skeletal makeup, which is an opportunity to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. It is a ritual and tradition which originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful.

Dia de los Muertos

In North America …

Halloween enjoys the maximum popularity in Canada and North America, exceeded only by Christmas. It is said that the most amount of candy is sold here during the festival period.

Jack O’Lanterns are created and homes are adorned with pumpkins and stalks of corn. Wearing sexy costumes is part of the fun and 3wishes.com offers a great variety to choose from.

Halloween Trivia: Approximately 600 million pounds of candy are sold in the U.S. each year for Halloween, with 90 million pounds of that being chocolate sold just during the week immediately preceding Halloween. Americans spend $1.9 billion on Halloween candy each year.

Approximately 600 million pounds of candy are sold in the U.S. each year for Halloween

Halloween in China …

Halloween is celebrated in China as Teng Chieh, where water and food are offered in front of photos of departed family members.

Lanterns are lit to make light for them to make it easy for them to travel back on the Halloween night. Buddhists make paper boats and burn them to enable the spirits of their loved ones to reach heaven. Sacred verses are sung by the monks and offerings of fruit are made.

Halloween in Europe

While France does not celebrate Halloween as it is regarded just as an American holiday, neighbouring Germany traditionally puts away all knives on Halloween night. This is done to ensure that the the returning spirits are in no way harmed (there’s a Halloween trivia question for you!).

In Austria and Belgium  people leave behind food, water and a lamp which is lit to welcome the dead souls back with their favourite dish.

The oldest holiday in the world, dating back to the pagan era, is celebrated with fervor and fanfare in several countries of the world. After all people find the process of death and life after it quite intriguing and fascinating.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

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Photo credits: Dia de los Muertos by Larry LamsaIn which country did Halloween originate?

    32 Comments

  1. Celtic and Pagan holidays are celebrated in Scotland and parts of England too. The Irish have, I believe, laid claim to Halloween much due to the party spirit of Dublin – where it’s a very special time of year. That said, my mum (Celtic English married to a Celtic Scottish man) always said Halloween was an American invention!

    It’s a fascinating celebration though isn’t it?

    • Definitely a fascinating holiday – I think we could probably argue that America invented the modern version of Halloween which many countries know throughout popular culture today, though that said, the States had a huge number of Irish immigration in it’s very early days, so perhaps this was something born out of Irish tradition and bought over with them :)

  2. This is so cool. I love learning how other cultures celebrate what I tend to think are just popular US celebrations. I had no Idea that Halloween was created in Ireland. Also I would love to see in person the celebration in China with the gifts.

    • Thanks Eric! Glad you enjoyed the post. Absolutely, I think it’s easy to believe that Halloween has it’s roots in America, when this is the country who probably goes out strongest with its celebration these days, but definitely has it’s original roots as a pagan celebration in Ireland. Fun fact of the day!

  3. How fascinating. I’d never really stopped to consider where it came from before. I’d love to visit Mexico for the day of the dead, I was there a few years back, just afterwards but so we saw a load of the huge effigies celebrating the occasion

    • Day of the Dead in Mexico sounds incredible doesn’t it! I would love to make it there one year also. Amazing that many of the effigies stay up throughout the following weeks :)

  4. Another really interesting place to experience Halloween is Japan! We were there over Halloween on our second trip a few years ago and were amazed that it’s (recently) become quite a thing. We saw youngsters (by which I mean young adults, not kids) dressed up in costumes not only on the day itself but for the days preceding as well, it was definitely an excuse for some cos play! On top of that, lots of stores had pumpkin themed decor from small to large, and the food places all did seasonal items such as Halloween pumpkin doughnuts!

    • Very cool! Thanks for the insight into Halloween in Japan Kavita – I can definitely see Japan as a country who would totally get into the spirit of cos play – how fab that it lasts for a couple of days – love it!

  5. Could you ever imagine your family gathering in a graveyard to picnic and party? Perhaps its just me, but I don’t think Aussies would get into that? Snags,VB and an Akubra at the graveyard. Hmmm?!

    Although the explosions of colour and life affirming joy sounds a wonderful way to celebrate those that have passed!

    • Definitely not something that I can see in our Aus culture either, but I think it’s quite beautiful on hearing their thinking behind it, I would definitely rather be celebrated than mourned!

  6. I loved reading this! So fun to see how holidays are enjoyed around the world. I’m from the U.S. so I know the super sext costume scene all to well, especially in college, Lordy! haha. I love that in Germany they put their knives away. That’s so crazy. I’ve heard Scotland has an interesting set of traditions for it as well – more spirit oriented.

    • Thanks Paige! So glad you enjoyed the post – I agree, I think it’s really fun to compare the different spins countries put on celebrations we observe as well. The US definitely has a super sexy costume scene as part of the modern culture of Halloween haha!!

      Someone else mentioned Scotland here too, so perhaps I’ll do some additional research and update the post :)

  7. I feel like the way we celebrate Halloween in the United States has evolved a lot even from when I was a child. Much more emphasis now on costumes and candy and haunted houses. It’s not my favorite holiday but it sure is interesting to see how others celebrate it around the world.

    • Definitely a lot more emphasis nowadays on extravagant costume parties, and getting glam, where I agree with you, I feel as though it used to be a much more family friendly holiday. Now it’s a whole commercial thing.

      But absolutely interesting to see how it’s evolved, in the States, and also how other countries celebrate :)

  8. Delightful, informative post. Ireland seems to be a place I would love to visit during the Halloween.
    Though I knew it, but seeing the candy statistics of US in writing – SHOCKING!

    And, I grew up in Northern Germany but am not familiar with the tradition of putting knives away. That must be from a certain region as regions have often their own language and traditions.

    Enjoyed your interesting post. #Ultimateblogchallenge

    • Thanks Ute! Glad you enjoyed the post. Ireland is an incredible country to travel for Halloween – can’t beat the birthplace of the whole concept right!!

      Yes, Halloween is by far the most commercial in the United States – it’s quite shocking when you consider how much candy that actually is right!

      The knives tradition in Germany could certainly be a specific region, thanks for the heads up that each region has their own traditions. I’ll look into this further to see if I can be more specific :)

  9. This article spoke to the travel-spirit in me. Experiencing Halloween in Mexico is definitely on my bucket list. I really enjoyed finding out about the rather spiritual approach towards Halloween in Asia.
    I am from Germany. Here Halloween is scary scary scary as people wander the streets dressed up as witches, ghots, zombies -you name it! Kids usually go from door to door asking for candy, while others party the night away or experience a night of horror….

    • I love that Halloween in Germany is about keeping it scary, as opposed to the US where it’s largely now a sexy, glamorous thing. Which is fun for sure, but Halloween to me should be about being a terrifying night! :D

      Hope you do have the chance to head down to Mexico one year soon :)

  10. Halloween in the US is different seems to be different coast to coast. I grew up on the East coast and it seemed that Halloween was a kids holiday. Trick or treating was the big emphasis. Moving to the West coast, it seems to shift to an adult holiday with themed parties and haunted houses! Just an observation :-)

    • Interesting that this is a change you’ve noticed from the East Coast to the West Coast – my husband is from the US, and has definitely noted the same, though throughout the years, in that in recent years it seems to have moved away from a kids holiday to more so of a adult themed party. But I’ll definitely try and hit up the East Coast one of these years – I was on the West when I lived there :)

  11. Hmm. Interesting facts. But, unlike what I’ve done on New Year’s Eve (traveled across the US, celebrating in each of the time zones, ending up in Long Beach for the longest celebration), I won’t bother traveling to see Halloween.

    • Not a holiday for everyone :) Glad you found the facts interesting regardless though!

  12. So interesting! I’ve never actually known where Halloween came from, although I have been interested in attending some of the various festivities around the world (Day of the Dead celebrations look absolutely fascinating!!). It’s so cool to read about how various regions celebrate this holiday! It goes to show that some of them are just as superstitious as we are :)

    • Glad you think so Kay! Day of the Dead celebrations really do sound fascinating right! I can’t wait to get to Mexico, I’ve read and heard so much about it – probably one of the most culturally authentic halloween celebrations around the world which is still observed today :)

      Glad you enjoyed the post – Happy Halloween!

  13. I really want to be in Latin American of the day of the dead celebrations. They have so much color and it’s interesting how they go to cemeteries and decorate. I love the sugar skulls as well.

    • Definitely some of the most fascinating celebrations in the world – I love that they celebrate the memory of the dead as opposed to mourning them. That’s how I would love to be honored :)

  14. Thanks for sharing this amazing idea. I read it its so interesting. I’m sharing you my Halloween days. I’m from NY. I love to purchase new costumes for new trendy Halloween. Celebrate the holiday with friends or family Go trick or treating. Decorate my homes with Halloween pumpkins. Make Halloween dishes.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Mary, and thanks for sharing your own personal experiences with Halloween :) Sounds like it’s quite fun in NY each year!

      Have an amazing Halloween in 2017!

  15. That is an interesting post with so many interesting facts. I never knew how Halloween started and it is celebrated so differently in different countries and regions. Anyways, I would love to dress up in the amazing costume and experience this festivity myself. Thanks for sharing.

    • Definitely a treat to experience Halloween if you’re from somewhere it’s not normally celebrated. Glad you found the different facts from each country interesting! Happy Halloween!

  16. Thanks for sharing this wonderful ideas. It is really interesting. After completing days of Halloween, I am reading this blog. It’s my bad luck. Next year, I will celebrate halloween this type as I am fan of dress up with halloween costumes.

    • You’re welcome Michelle, so glad that you enjoyed the post :) Yes, while Halloween is only just recently over for this year, can definitely choose which culture you’ll channel for next year’s celebrations :)

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