Trick or Treat? Halloween around the world
The spookiest night of the year is almost upon us and to mark the occasion we thought we’d take a look at who celebrates Halloween and how it is celebrated around the world.
UK’s commercial apparitions
Here in the UK trick-or-treating has been firmly established as an annual event for many years. In the last decade, however, the commercial aspect of Halloween has really taken off – sales of Halloween products having trebled since 2005.
USA’s BIG treat
In the early 20th Century Halloween was celebrated by a range of immigrant communities in America. Nowadays, the commercial aspect is huge (it’s 2nd to Christmas in dollar revenue!). The build-up lasts for weeks with 65% of Americans decorating their homes, gardens and offices. 85-90% of children go trick-or-treating too! Halloween is so popular in the US that many people falsely believe it originated there. In fact, it originated in Ireland.
Ireland’s fruity Halloween cakes (with peas)
This is the home of Halloween and has been part of Irish tradition since the 10th Century. It is widely celebrated with the common traditions of pumpkins, dressing up and trick-or-treating, as well as the less-common tradition of firework displays. Ireland also has a traditional Halloween fruitcake called Barmbrack, used for a fortune-telling game. Inside the cake is a pea, a cloth, a coin and a ring, all of which carry different meanings for those involved.
Belgium’s giant carnival
Belgium is another country that celebrates Halloween on a big scale. Shops, bars and restaurants are adorned with Halloween decorations, while parades take place in cities, including a giant carnival in Ostend. Halloween also has personal meaning in Belgium and it is customary to light candles in memory of deceased relatives.
Spain’s skull shaped pastries!
In Spain, Halloween is also thought to be about honouring the dead – yet at the same time, celebrating the continuity of life. A traditional pastry known as ‘Bones of the Holy’ is eaten, which is anise seed bread with an orange glaze, shaped into skulls. Consuming a herbal drink called ‘quemadas’ is also a tradition.
France’s anti-American boycott
In some countries, though, Halloween is not such a welcome occasion. In France, for example, it has proven to be quite controversial as it is regarded as an American celebration. Some people have rejected it completely as part of an anti-American boycott, but despite this it is becoming more and more popular. People attend Halloween parties and shops, offices and homes are decorated. Unusually, trick-or-treating started out as store-to-store, but home-to-home is now becoming more common and children are encouraged to make their own costumes.
Italy’s commercial attitude rising from the dead
It’s a similar story in Italy, where Halloween is generally regarded as having no meaning to those who live there. Yet in spite of this it is growing in popularity and shops are beginning to sell costumes and decorations. Restaurants are starting to hold themed parties and Halloween tours of medieval towers are becoming common – a sure sign that the country is recognising the commercial value of the occasion.
Poland’s not-in-the-‘spirit’ attitude
Poland is a country that is still largely opposed to Halloween. There, it has a bad reputation, as the Polish Catholic Church believes that it contradicts Church teachings and promotes a culture of death. It’s not surprising then that it is not celebrated much and hardly anyone dresses up. Trick-or-treating is unusual and is actually regarded as annoying, especially by the elderly.
We hope this has given you an interesting insight into how Halloween is celebrated around the world. It’s safe to say that whatever you intend to do to celebrate this year, there’ll be no escaping costumes, supermarkets full of sweets and knocking at the door come 31st October.