(Article written by Babbel.com)
When we think of Halloween, we picture novelty items such as fake cobwebs and plastic spiders, items that for many of us have come to play key part in how we celebrate All Hallows’ Eve. But whilst for many of us Halloween is just an excuse to dress up and watch a good horror film, it isn’t celebrated in this way everywhere in the world.
Dancing around dressed as the living dead or scaring yourself senseless with a scary movie can be fun, but doing the same thing each year can become a little boring. To give you some inspiration, the linguists at Babbel.com have looked into some of the popular ways that Halloween is celebrated in other parts of the world. Perhaps this year you will find yourself playing ‘snap apple’ or making ‘beans of the dead!’
Halloween is not something Germany has traditionally celebrated; in fact, they only began to recognize the festival as recently as 1991! In some parts of Southern Germany such as Austria and Bavaria, Halloween is known as the ‘All Soul’s Week’ and is celebrated between October 30th– November 8th. A German tradition that has sprung up during Halloween celebrations is to hide all knives in order to prevent any harm coming to spirits who may be returning to the land of the living!
In Italy, Halloween is beginning to be celebrated by younger generations on October 31st, however a much more important day in Italy is the Christian festival of ‘All Soul’s Day’- celebrated by public holiday on November 1st. On this day, loved ones who have passed away are commemorated and, like Halloween, it is a day in which the dead are believed to return to the living. In some regions of Italy, children wake up to find small presents from their deceased family members, while in other regions people leave food for the visiting spirits and set them a place at the dinner table! Another tradition observed by some, is to make cakes in the shape of beans, these are known as ‘beans of the dead’. Meanwhile in Rome it is supposedly traditional for a couple to announce their engagement on All Souls Day!
Halloween in Spain is better known as ‘Day of the Dead’ (‘El Dia de los Muertos’) and involves a three-day celebration. It all begins on October 31st with the ‘Dia de las Brujas’ (‘Day of the witches’), also known in some areas as ‘Noite dos Calac’ (‘Night of the Pumpkins’). This is followed by ‘Dia de Todos los Santos’ (‘All Saints Day’) on November 1st, and finally on November 2nd ‘Dia de los Muertos’ (‘Day of the Dead’). A popular Halloween drink often consumed in Spain is a drink called quemada, a mixture of aguardiente (aniseed liquor), unground coffee, orange peel or lemon rind, and sugar. In some areas of Spain people mix the drink inside a pumpkin whilst reciting a spell…
Just like Italy, in Portugal celebrations are extended to the national holiday of ‘All Saints Day’ on November 1st, during which people honour family members who have died. Families visit the graves of their relatives to lay flowers and candles, and traditionally have feasts of wine and chestnuts. On the morning of the 1st, children knock on street doors reciting poems and asking for ‘the bread of God’. Traditionally they are given bread, cakes, and nuts (although increasingly this is becoming chocolate!) which they then put in specially embroidered cloth bags.
An old Slavic tradition in Poland was ‘Dziady’ which translates to ‘forefathers’. This was a day celebrated not only on October 31st but also May 5th. On this day bonfires were made and food was left out for the dead (who it was believed would return that night), and wooden masks were made to symbolize their spirits. The Catholic church altered the festival and it became known as ‘zaduski’, a catholic holiday on November 1st. On this day families gather to have dinner together, during which traditional Polish meals are served so as to please the returning spirits, who are believed to be watching over the dinner. Some households leave plates and food at the table for the spirits, as well as vodka. After eating, people visit family graves and decorate them with wreaths and small lanterns. In some areas of Poland, it is tradition to launch candles onto rivers so that the candles may travel to the ‘other world’ to ask for guidance and to send messages.
Believe it or not, Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween! It is widely believed that Halloween originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, a festival which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In rural areas of Ireland, Celtic traditions of lighting bonfires on the 31st are still upheld and children trick or treat and dress up just as we do. However, there are two games traditionally played during an Irish Halloween. The first is ‘snap-apple’. This is a game in which an apple on a string is attached to a doorframe or tree, and players have to attempt to bite the hanging apple. The second involves a card game where cards are laid face down on a table with sweets or money hidden underneath them. If the child chooses a card with something underneath, they win the sweet or money!