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Global Halloween Traditions and Celebrations

October 23, 2018 Apps No Comments Email Email

Next week, Aussies will be donning costumes and knocking on doors yelling ‘Trick or Treat’ to celebrate Halloween.

October 31st celebrations are steeped in history, with lollies and costumes a modern spin on old traditions. Babbel, the world’s number one language learning app looks at how our European mates mark all hallows eve.


The Spanish have long observed a three day festival: Halloween, Dia de Todos los Santos, and Dia de Muertos (Pron: dee-ah the mwer-taws) or ‘day of the dead’ to honour the dead and celebrate the continuity of life. Much like Australians, on the night before most public holidays in Spain, people take advantage of not having to go to work or school the next day by partying all night long. Cultural tip: While Friday the 13th is traditionally associated with Halloween and considered unlucky in many countries, the unlucky day in Spain is Tuesday the 13th. This is why, in Spain, you should never, ever get married or travel on a Tuesday that lands on the 13th.


While western Halloween isn’t really a Polish tradition, Dziady (Pron: jah-deh) or ‘Forefather’s Eve’ would be its local version. It was once celebrated in both spring and autumn but is now held around the end of October each year. The Slavic feast is a celebration of family, both of those living and the souls of those passed over to the “forefathers”. In Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz, immortalized the celebration in a four-part poetic drama of the same name – considered one of the greatest works of European Romanticism. It was originally published in 1822 and is only now available in English.


While the Greeks do not actually celebrate Halloween, they do celebrate Apokries – which is similar – in February. Also similar (in word form) is the Greek word Alektoro, meaning ‘rooster’ and where Alektorophobia (fear of chickens) comes from. If you can’t imagine a less intimidating animal, you might be surprised that there are 25 billion chickens on the planet, outnumbering humans almost 3 to 1. They are actually observational learners and can do simple arithmetic, and there’s also good evidence that chickens were originally domesticated for fighting – not food – which means they might not be so harmless after all.


The Celtic, Roman and Catholic traditions have long been celebrated, but it was the Gulf War in 1991 that set the stage for western Halloween traditions in Germany. Then Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, pledged to pay a fair share of war costs and the traditional Karneval celebrations were subsequently cancelled – a significant economic blow to the costume industry. PR was ramped up by the Deutscher Verband der Spielwarenindustrie or ‘German Toy Industry Association’ to focus on the little-known Halloween as a replacement, and by 1994 it was firmly part of popculture. So popular is it, that today it provides around €30 million to the German economy.


La fête d’Halloween (Pron: la fett dah-lowin) or ‘Halloween’ is not celebrated by the French in order to honour the dead and departed ancestors. France is one of the countries in Europe that is much closer to the celebrations we know. However, it is definitely seen as an “Americanism”, and many French people turn up their patriotic nose at the idea of celebrating or embracing Halloween in France. For this reason, you won’t find so many children on the street asking for lollies, but locals do embrace the chance to dress up at a fête costumée or ‘costume party’. SWEDEN The Swedish have only been celebrating Halloween – as we know it – since the early 90s. The Christian holiday Alla Helgons Dag (Pron: ah-la hell-gons dawg) or ‘All saints day’ is the traditional commemoration of the dead and is held on the Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. As the days get shorter with the beginning of Autumn, a core tradition is att tända gravljus which means to “light grave candles” for the spirits in the darkness.

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