Hallowe’en is just a couple of days away, and children and grown-ups alike will be getting ready for the spookiest day of the year. (Featured image is by H_Elise.)
Pumpkins are selling in their hundreds and thousands, ready to be carved into eerie faces and placed in windows to scare trick-or-treaters.
For anyone over the age of about 12, trick-or-treating is pretty much out of the question. But luckily, dressing up in spooky costumes is fun no matter what age you are.
Hallowe’en falls on a Wednesday this year, so if you’re heading out this Friday or Saturday night you can expect to see plenty of witches, zombies and ghosts.
Hallowe’en is essentially a Western tradition, but there are different customs and traditions to be found all over the world. So, how do they celebrate the occasion in other countries?
The Emerald Isle is widely believed to be the birthplace of Hallowe’en, with the festival of Samhain forming the basis for the occasion we know today.
Marking the end of summer and the beginning of the darker half of the year, Samhain was believed to be a time when the dead revisit the mortal world. This is thought to have formed the basis for many of our Hallowe’en traditions today.
Bonfires and rituals would be held to mark the occasion, and people would wear costumes to disguise themselves against evil spirits and go door-to-door collecting food for the Samhain feast.
Today, Hallowe’en is still a significant occasion in Ireland with games and parties (and in urban areas trick-or-treating) all very popular.
Irish immigrants brought their Hallowe’en traditions to America in the mid-19th Century, and Americans embraced the holiday wholeheartedly.
It was an instant hit, and is still an incredibly popular holiday to this day – much more widely celebrated than here in Britain.
Many of the traditions we take for granted with Hallowe’en over here, such as trick-or-treating and dressing up, are a result of American influences.
Like the UK, Mexico has adopted American Hallowe’en traditions over the years, and October 31 will see schoolchildren out trick-or-treating – although the “trick” part is generally not upheld.
Mexico’s Hallowe’en celebrations are unique in that they mark the start of three days of holidays as it immediately precedes Day of the Dead – a two-day celebration in which the deceased are honoured.
Day of the Dead is a national holiday in Mexico, and sees families construct altars and shrines to their deceased loved ones using sugar skulls, marigolds and their favourite foods and possessions.
Hallowe’en, as we know it, is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan and is not widely celebrated. Pumpkins can be seen in shop windows around the country, but trick-or-treating is not a common practice.
A Hallowe’en-esque Japanese custom that is far more widely celebrated is Obon Festival, which takes place in August.
This three-day Buddhist tradition is dedicated to the spirits of the deceased in Japan, and sees people return to ancestral family locations. The spirits of ancestors are believed to return to their homes, and special foods and decorations are made to mark the occasion.
Read our other Hallowe’en pieces: