Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sat October 31 2015

5 International Ways to Celebrate Halloween

Features & Advice | Cherese Weekes | October 31, 2015

5 International Ways to Celebrate Halloween

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Could you imagine a Halloween without trick-or-treaters?  Without seeing a spooky faced pumpkin in sight or frantically feeling your way around a haunted mansion?  Although these are traditionally ways the eerie holiday is celebrated in the U.S., in many other countries the celebration of Halloween is derived from religious and ancient beliefs.

In fact, it is believed that Halloween evolved from the Samhain Festival, in which the Celts used bonfires to symbolize warding off evil spirits. So if you’re thinking about celebrating amongst the dead or ditching candy corn for Irish bread, then you might have a howling good time incorporating these five international Halloween traditions.

Mexico: Day of the Dead

Some people wouldn’t be caught dead near a cemetery during Halloween, but in Mexico cemeteries become festive playgrounds on Oct. 31- Nov. 2, when the Day of the Dead is celebrated.  While our closest encounter to a ghost may be partying next to one, spirits of the dead are believed to descend from heaven with the intention of rejoining their loved ones.

In the jubilant spirit of the living and dead reunion, tombstones are decorated and altars are colorfully erected in the home to bid spirits a grand welcome.

Ireland: Barmbrack

Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without indulging in candy, but that doesn’t mean your sweet tooth will be dissatisfied if you add some international flavor to your diet. Ireland is considered Halloween’s birthplace and among its oldest traditions is eating barmbrack, a sweetened loaf of bread that could also predict the future for its consumers when specific objects are baked inside of it.  

A simple bite could guarantee marriage if a ring was found inside, and a coin meant a prosperous life.  Halloween might already be rich with superstition but we have to hand it to Ireland for turning “tainted food” into a Halloween tradition.

Kansas: Neewollah

What do you do when you want to stop kids from pranking on Halloween? You create an event that is filled with so many fun activities, indulging in silly tricks becomes the furthest thing from their minds.  Created in 1919, Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) is the town of Independence’s crowning attraction. Each year you’ll find Independence jam-packed with music, parades, contests and even a cook-off among chili aficionados for 10 days of revelry.  You’ll especially want to get to the Grand Parade on Oct. 31 early to get a good view of the festive floats passing by.

Great Britain: Guy Fawkes Night

Thinking of braving the cold weather and taking the holiday celebration outdoors?  Stay warm by a bonfire like the British do on Guy Fawkes Night.  On Nov. 5, Great Britain becomes ablaze with fireworks and bonfires in memory of the failed attempt to assassinate members of Parliament in 1605. Decades later, the burning of effigies has morphed into such a grand tradition, both children and adults join in on the fun.

England: Punkie Night

Every last Thursday in October in Somerset, England you may not see children begging for candy while chanting trick-or-treat, but you will see them holding jack-o-lanterns while singing the “Punkie Night Song” in hopes of receiving money for charity.  According to one ancient legend, women in search of their husbands lit lanterns to find them at a fair in a nearby village.  Unfortunately, the inebriated men fearfully ran because they believed the lanterns to be the ghosts of dead children.  Although versions of this tale vary, there’s no harm in trick-or-treating for a charitable cause.


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