Trick-or-treating, jack-o’-lanterns, costume parties, bobbing for apples, haunted houses, scary movies: For many people, these are the hallmarks of the spookiest day of the year. But Halloween celebrations around the world vary widely, with markedly different traditions and beliefs depending on the country. Here’s a smattering of ways people mark the cusp of October and November.
Mexico observes the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) between October 31 and November 2. Its origins can be traced back to pre-Hispanic times, with many modern rituals stemming from customs that centuries-old civilizations, from the Mayans to the Aztecs, observed hundreds or thousands of years ago. Nowadays, Mexicans, as well as other people throughout Latin America, will remember their deceased loved ones by either creating altars in their homes or paying a visit to the cemetery in order to leave offerings of flowers, gifts and even the deceased’s favourite candies.
Though the 7,000-plus islands that make up the nation of the Philippines don’t celebrate Halloween as we know it, they do have a three-day holiday that takes place at the same time of year and has quite a few similarities. Things kick off on October 31 with the practice of Pangangaluluwa, where people dress up to represent the dead and go door to door singing songs and asking their neighbours for money and sweets. This is followed by Todos los Santos, the period when deceased relatives can visit the living. During this time, it’s not uncommon for extended families to gather at the cemetery to visit with each other, enjoy a meal and perhaps even play the guitar.
Haiti has cultural traditions deeply rooted in the Voodoo religion that was brought over by African slaves, and the island’s inhabitants honour these origins on November 1 and 2 with the Jour des Morts celebration. During this two-day stretch, Haitians celebrate the Ghede spirits who inhabit the underworld by setting up altars with food, rum and clothing. But this holiday not only recognizes the influence of dead spirits in Haitian daily life, it also celebrates the living. People often gather to drink rum, dance and play drums to connect with the spirit world. Many also dress up like Ghede Nibo, a leader of the spirits, by donning top hats and long riding coats and carrying canes.
Romanians mark Halloween with a host of festivities throughout the Transylvania region. As the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the prince who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the town of Sighișoara offers lots of creepy, nail-biting activities every October. During the holiday, the castle where Vlad lived opens for visitors, and people can embark on tours of nearby locations connected to the histories and legends of the region and its famous, cruel prince. Nearby, you can witness a mock witch trial or attend a costume party inside what is rumoured to be the most haunted castle in Europe.