While there are obviously parts of the globe that do not recognize or celebrate it, Halloween around the world is a traditional holiday that is considered one of the oldest in history. It is still the most popular in North America, Canada and possibly Ireland. There are plenty of other countries and regions that honor the holiday, though some of the traditions of Halloween may vary from place to place.
America – The jack-o’ -lantern was introduced by Irish settlers who brought the tradition with them. Their own folklore told the tale of a man named Jack who tricked the Devil on more than one occasion, but made the Devil agree to never claim his soul. Upon the man’s death, when the Devil could not let him enter, and Heaven wouldn’t take him, the Devil sent Jack away. Given only a coal from Hell to light the way, Jack found and carved a turnip to use as a lantern to carry this in.
The jack-o’-lantern was thus born and Irish traditionalists used the lantern in their homes to ward off spirits at Halloween. Once arriving in American and seeing large pumpkins that would work better for carving, the jack-o’-lantern was no longer a turnip.
As for the tradition of trick-or-treating, that appears to have begun in the 1950’s, though possible earlier. Costumed children began dressing in costume and demanding of residents that they hand over sweets, or sometimes money, or face the wrath of some trickery.
Canada – It is believed that Halloween traditions were started as far back as the 1800’s when the Irish immigrants first started landing there. Their Halloween customs do not deviate from the same ways Americans celebrate Halloween. They also use carved pumpkins and children partake in trick-or-treating.
China – Their Halloween celebrations are a bit more spirit friendly, as they actually encourage the spirits of their dead loved ones to return on this night. Lanterns are ignited to help the deceased find their way, and food offerings are left by their pictures. It is considered an honor to have the chance to have these souls return.
England – A different form of trick-or-treat was played out here, and may possibly the start of what became trick-or-treat for others who celebrate Halloween around the world. Children would wander the streets singing songs and door knocking to request money from residents. More recently, the British children began to bring back the tradition of door knocking on Halloween, but expecting changing it up to resemble the American style of trick-or-treating.
Ireland – This is also a place where Halloween is still celebrated possibly as much as it is in American and Canada. It is also considered the possible birthplace of the holiday. Children have their trick-or-treat festivities but the celebration continues and adults participate by having bonfires and parties.
Mexico – Like China, the dead are honored and this celebration of the dead is actually a joyous, festive occasion. Halloween (Day of the Dead) is actually just the day the celebration begins and continues for 3 days, ending on November 2, which is All Souls Day. Shrines and alters go up in homes for families hoping their deceased loved ones will return for a visit. Candy and other offerings are left as gifts to welcome spirits, and incense and candles are burned on the final day to help spirits find their way back.
Korea – To honor the dead on Halloween, Koreans visit the graves of their loved ones bearing gifts.
Austria – Another place where the dead are welcomed guests. A table light is left burning, and bread is left as an offering for any spirits of loved ones whom may stop by.
Czechoslovakia – Here, also, dead loved ones are invited to stop by. Chairs for all household members living and dead are placed out so the family can reunite.
Germany – They do not welcome spirits, but they do hide sharp utensils such as knives, so they will not be hurt by ghosts.
There are other places and methods for celebrating Halloween around the world, but these are just a few examples of the differences and similarities of many areas. There is also of course France that refuses to acknowledge Halloween, claiming it is an American holiday. Globalization has caused some time honored traditions to shift and more closely resemble the American festivities of Halloween, especially concerning the creation and placement of jack-o’-lanterns and events like trick-or-treat. Who could blame kids for wanting their families to adopt this sort of tradition, though?