Ghosts, Goblins & Witches ‘Round the Globe … Redux

This was my Hallowe’en post back in 2016 … little did I know then just how scary things were about to get!  I’ve added a few pictures since the original version, and I hope you’ll enjoy seeing some traditions from other countries and cultures!   


halloween-3Here in the U.S., our Hallowe’en traditions hail back to Ireland, which is widely considered to be where Hallowe’en originated.  The Irish celebrate much as we do here, with children dressing up to go trick-or-treating for candy, parties with games such as bobbing for apples, bonfires, etc.  A traditional food eaten on Hallowe’en is barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake that, it is said, can foretell the eater’s future. If a ring is found, it means that the person will soon be wed; a piece of straw means that a prosperous year is on its way.halloween-2

So, let us take a look at what they do in some other countries around the globe:

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead):

dia-1In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, All Souls’ Day, which takes place on November 2, is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31. The celebration is designed to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes on Hallowe’en. Many families construct an altar to the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks, and fresh water. Often, a wash basin and towel are left out so that the spirit can wash before indulging in the feast.

dia-2Día de los Muertos festivities often feature breads, candies and other foods in the shape of skulls and skeletons. Candles and incense are burned to help the deceased find their way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of their departed family members. This can include snipping weeds, making repairs, and painting. The grave is then decorated with flowers, wreaths, or paper streamers. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some gatherings even include tequila and a mariachi band.mariachi

Guy Fawkes Day

guy-1On the evening of November 5, bonfires are lit throughout England. Effigies are burned and fireworks are set off. Although it falls around the same time and has some similar traditions, this celebration has little to do with Hallowe’en or the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The English, for the most part, stopped celebrating Hallowe’en as Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation began to spread. As followers of the new religion did not believe in saints, they had no reason to celebrate the eve of All Saints’ Day. However, a new autumn ritual did emerge. Guy Fawkes Day festivities were designed to commemorate the execution of a notorious English traitor, Guy Fawkes.

guy-2On November 5, 1606, Fawkes was executed after being convicted of attempting to blow up England’s parliament building. Fawkes was a member of a Catholic group who wanted to remove the Protestant King James from power. The original Guy Fawkes Day was celebrated right after his execution. The first bonfires, which were called “bone fires,” were set up to burn effigies and symbolic “bones” of the Catholic pope. It was not until two centuries later that effigies of the pope were replaced with those of Guy Fawkes. In addition to making effigies to be burned in the fires, children in some parts of England also walk the streets carrying an effigy or “guy” and ask for “a penny for the guy,” although they keep the money for themselves. This is as close to the American practice of “trick-or-treating” as can be found in England today. Guy Fawkes Day was even celebrated by the pilgrims at the first settlement at Plymouth. However, as the young nation began to develop its own history, Guy Fawkes was celebrated less frequently and eventually died out.

Teng Chieh

teng-1In China, the Hallowe’en festival is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. Worshipers in Buddhist temples fashion “boats of the law” from paper, some of which are very large, which are then burned in the evening hours. The purpose of this custom is twofold: as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits of the “pretas” in order that they might ascend to heaven. “Pretas” are the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were consequently never buried. The presence of “pretas” among the living is thought by the Chinese to be dangerous. Under the guidance of Buddhist temples, societies are formed to carry out ceremonies for the “pretas,” which includes the lighting of lanterns. Monks are invited to recite sacred verses and offerings of fruit are presented.

Yue Lan

yueThe Halloween celebration in Hong Kong is known as “Yue Lan” (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) and is a time when it is believed that spirits roam the world for twenty-four hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money at this time, believing these images would reach the spirit world and bring comfort to the ghosts. Fires are lit and food and gifts are offered to placate potentially angry ghosts who might be looking for revenge.

austriaAustria: Austria has a Pumpkin Festival in Retzer Land called Kürbisfest im Retzer Land. On November 11, Austria celebrates Martini which includes costumes and a lantern procession. Some people in Austria believe that if they leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp out, dead souls will be welcomed back to earth for that night.

Belgium: In Belgium some villages celebrate Hallowe’en while other villages focus on celebrating All Saints’ Day. On Hallowe’en night, a Belgian may be found lighting a candle in memory of a dead relative.


Germany: Hallowe’en auf Deutsch became popular in the 1990s. People start to decorate around mid-October and use Hallowe’en as a party theme. On November 11, Germans celebrate Matinstag which includes costumes and a lantern procession.


Sweden: In Sweden, Hallowe’en is known as “Alla Helgons Dag” and is celebrated from October 31 until November 6. As with many other holidays, “Alla Helgons Dag” has an eve which is either celebrated or becomes a shortened working day. The Friday prior to All Saint’s Day is a short day for universities while school-age children are given a day of vacation.

HalloweenWell, that is all I could come up with for today.  I will likely do another Hallowe’en post sometime between now and Hallowe’en.  Those readers who live outside the U.S., please feel free to share traditions and celebrations in your country by leaving a comment.  Thanks to all for giving me this opportunity to take a brief break from you-know-who!  I can breathe again!  Have a safe and fun Hallowe’en!


55 thoughts on “Ghosts, Goblins & Witches ‘Round the Globe … Redux

  1. Very interesting histories… There are lots of common threads through most Halloween type traditions for honouring the dead. I think the whole thing also ties in with the seasonal change from the end of the growing season to the season of the dead or dormant.
    Seems the Brits have to be different by eschewing Halloween to remember the actions of a ‘traitor to the crown.’ Perhaps, it is a warning to others not to try the same thing. It is not quite as big as it used to be when I was a kid, and it is a very long time since I saw any kids collecting a penny for the ‘Guy.’ I think this is due to health and safety… All bonfires need licenses and must be officially organised with the fire service on hand (just in case).
    When I was a kid, my friend and I made our own fire on a field designated for a housing development. We put potatoes in tinfoil and pushed them into the centre of the fire with sticks. We ate them, skin and all, very charred and black. I burned holes in my gloves and got my coat filthy with mud and charred remains of the fire. Such fun! Just wouldn’t happen nowadays. 😉🔥

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  2. Interesting review of customs around the world Jill; The ‘Guy’ has mostly died out in the UK, except in weird parts where due to too much marrying of cousins they still burn effigies of a pope and in some cases Muslims etc…y’know the drill.
    One thing ’bout old Guy..Guido Fawkes. The fashion these days for unimaginative protesters to do the ‘V for Vendetta’ thing….I wonder if everyone who dons this mask and claims to be interested in liberty realises they are celebrating a religious fanatic somewhat equivalent to an ISIS terrorist?…… Just saying…..

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  3. that was a fun and informative read. I’d never heard of Day of the Dead and Guy Fawkes Day until a few days ago, and now here it is again. It’s a fascinating holiday. I love the Trump pumpkin at the start!

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    • I do find it fascinating to see how holidays are celebrated in other countries. I did the same thing for Easter one year … I’ll have to remember to redux that next spring! That Trump pumpkin is a classic … I found another on Facebook the other day that I liked, showing a big pumpkin carved to look like jail bars in front, and a smaller pumpkin inside that looked like Trump! 🤣

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  4. Hello Jill. Grand post. With so many traditions all over the world and how much they change you did great. This morning I was reading the Halloween news to my hubby who is a Wiccan. I had to laugh when he went on a rant about how it was Samhain and he was so tired of these people stealing his holidays. I am not a believer in the supernatural, but I listened to his rant with the due concern of a spouse in the 30th year of their relationship. I was chuckling inside at how much every myth and religious idea has borrowed from others. Is there really any pure religious / mythical ideas that are not build things that came before.

    As always Jill, love your posts. Hugs

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Scottie! I must admit that, though I had heard the term ‘Wiccan’, I really had no idea what it meant, so I did a bit of Googling … interesting! I imagine you and Ron have some fascinating discussions. I’m like you … I think all belief systems and religions are built around a need or desire on the part of some to control others. I think Karl Marx hit the nail on the head when he referred to religion as “the opiate of the masses”. Happy Hallowe’en (a bit late), my friend! Hugs!

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                • I think I’d really like to have somebody in the White House that I don’t need to pick on, so I can spend my time fighting for causes like the environment, gun control, etc. But, if I have a choice about who the next occupant in the Oval Office would be, I could like either Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg … or both!

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                    • Oh, I’m sure that no matter who replaces Trump, there will be things I will argue with. But, after Trump, I think almost anybody will seem pretty good! Sigh … I suspect you are right. I’m fairly certain … 98% anyway … that the Senate under Mitch McConnell is NOT going to convict and remove him once the House votes to impeach. That leaves us with the hope of voting him out of office in November 2020. In a fair and honest election, I think it would be a no-brainer that Trump would be voted out. But … first, there is already evidence of Russia and others using propaganda to sway voters, and some indication they are tampering with electronic voting machines. Add to that, the electoral college in light of the vast number of states with gerrymandered districts, and add to THAT, the fact that some states are working hard to disenfranchise poor, young, and minority voters, and … it’s a recipe for disaster. Then, add to that the fact that the Democratic Party is splintered and the top 3-4 candidates all have significant Achilles heels. Sigh.

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                    • And add to that the Dems have invested all their voter equity in removing Trump. The voting public is not going to like the result you outline. A sad trail on which Pelosi has lead her party. Reminds me of the Donnor expidition. I think some of the Dems are going to end up eating each other.

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                    • That’s also an excellent point. And your reference to the Donnor party is not far off, either. A while back I bemoaned that the democrats are “eating their own”. The Democratic Party hasn’t yet recovered from their 2016 loss, and seem to be wandering without true focus, their only goal being to beat Trump, without any real unity within the party.

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                    • That is for sure … anything the House passes, the Senate is sure to reject, and vice versa. And, even if they do reach across the aisle and pass bipartisan legislation, Trump will either let it sit on his desk, else veto it. I fear that a number of things will backfire. I hope we are both wrong, though, for I don’t think I can do another four years of this, plus … I fear what we will become if he wins another term.

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