Ever wondered how Halloween is celebrated around the world?
It’s not such a big deal in Singapore, so I went about asking others how they celebrate this occasion in their country!
1. London, U.K.
While Halloween is celebrated much more staunchly in the United States than in England, Laura‘s Halloween tradition has always remained the same.
She has never been much into dressing up and attending big Halloween parties, and no matter where she lived, there have never been many trick-or-treaters. Instead, Halloween is more of a food holiday for her.
Halloween always mean autumn, which is her favourite time of the year. It’s harvest time, and some of her favourite foods are available in abundance. Because of this, every year, they find a local pumpkin patch where they can pick the perfect pumpkins and enjoy the changing colours around the farm.
Apple cider, caramel apples, mulled wine, butternut squash soup – these are some of her favourite things to eat. Perhaps the best part of the whole tradition is having all those leftover pumpkin seeds to roast!
On Halloween day, they invite friends over for a pumpkin carving contest. The evening always starts with a feast of chili, soup, and apple cider, followed by caramel apples and mulled wine for dessert.
In London, there are lots of alternative Halloween celebrations for kids who find the dark and spooky aspects of the holiday too scary, and for parents who don’t want their kids out trick or treating.
Hannah‘s kids, aged 6, 5 and 2 attend a WOW! party, a huge community event with a disco and huge inflatable games (a bouncy dome, bouncy castle and a Gladiator game). It’s like an indoor carnival.
Local volunteers host fairground games such as a coconut shy and lucky dip as well as face painting and the atmosphere is fun and light, not at all scary. In another hall are the treats- crepe stands, a popcorn machine, candy floss vendors and a pizza buffet. If they’re not stuffed after all that the kids can decorate their own cupcakes to take home to their family.
The event is non-profit, costing just £3.50 per child, and fancy dress is encouraged but optional.
After the younger kids have finished up at around 9pm, the teens get their own party to give them somewhere to go instead of hanging around on the street after trick-or-treaters have gone home.
There’s X-Box games, inflatables, a cinema screen and a chill-out area. The teens get to snack on pizza, mess about bashing each other off the Gladiator inflatable and have fun in a safe environment with their mates.
It’s great to have alternative Halloween options in London for kids to celebrate and have fun without the spooky stuff!
2. Beira, Portugal
There are some Portuguese Halloween traditions that are remarkably similar to modern-day, Western Halloween traditions.
Pão-por-Deus, for example, is a tradition where children recite verses to their relatives in return for cakes, nuts, fruits, and sweets. Then there’s the pumpkin carving, which is popular in some parts of Portugal such as the Beira region.
Unfortunately, unless you’re visiting one or two specific regions, you’re unlikely to see these customs in action. One unique custom you will see, though, is the November 1st grave cleaning tradition.
Every year, on 1 November, the entire Portuguese community heads to their local cemetery to spruce up their relatives’ graves. It’s so popular that many people even get up early so that they can get a good parking spot in front of the cemetery.
Then, the rubber gloves are put on, the bleach comes out, and everyone gets to work. It’s such a big event, you’ll find all kinds of traders outside the cemeteries. There are usually flower sellers and people selling traditional Portuguese fast food products, like roasted chestnuts and maybe even farturas, a Portuguese take on churros.
If you’re visiting Portugal on 1 November, it’s worth passing a graveyard to see this Portuguese tradition in action!
3. New York City, U.S.
New Yorkers take Halloween very seriously. Most people decorate the outside of their homes with manifestations of scary legends or the dead. Those that can’t afford to go all out with the decorations at least buy a pumpkin and place it outside their door.
Halloween costume parties are very big. One of the coolest things to see are the costumed characters riding the subway as if it was the most normal thing in the world. They can be gruesome ghouls, zombies and monsters or sweet, innocent little girls…with chainsaws and baseball bats!
Talek‘s Halloween Parades are legendary. Last year, hundreds of participants organised to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller zombie dance. Imagine a hoard of “decaying zombies” swaying and leaping in unison down a major New York City avenue in the middle of the night. Quite a sight!
But the kids knocking on your door and screeching “trick or treat!” in their creative costumes is her favourite. Their joy and excitement is evident in their eager, happy faces.
Halloween is certainly the most inclusive holiday where everyone gets together, interacts and participates in a shared event.
4. Minnesota, U.S.
Halloween in Minnesota can be typical of what people see in non-scary Halloween movies and commercials. It’s pretty standard fare. Leaves are off the trees and Scott and Hayley will bag them up in the ubiquitous, orange pumpkin plastic bags.
Everyone has several pumpkins on their front porch and the air will get crisp at night. It’s a great experience walking down the sidewalks and seeing jack-o-lanterns light up on your way. People convert their houses into haunted houses and install goofy, fake cobwebs everywhere.
Sometimes, though, Halloween can get a little snowy. Being as far north as Minnesota is, and getting the weird meteorological effects from the Canadian Rockies, Minnesota often gets an early dose of cold, snowy weather. And when that snow hits at the end of October, kids are trick-or-treating in the warmest clothes they can find.
Ask a Minnesotan older than 30 if they remember the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 and they’ll probably reminisce about how their parents bundled them up in snow pants, stocking hats, and boots to go out in search of candy. And quite often they would tell the younger kids, “Back in my day, we had 2 feet of snow when we went out trick-or-treating!”
5. Seui, Sardinia
While nowadays many countries celebrate the American version of Halloween, it is always interesting to realize that Day of the Dead celebrations have long existed before Halloween went global.
In the beautiful village of Seui, in the heart of Sardinia, Su Prugadoriu celebrates the worship of the souls of the dead.
According to the tradition, the children of the village go from door to door asking for donations for the lost souls of the Purgatory, in order to ease their suffering.
The tradition is now revived through celebrations which are typical of the local culture, strictly connected with agriculture and sheep farming.
Su Prugadoriu lasts 3 full days, from 30 October to 1 November. During the festival, all the museums and the most beautiful traditional buildings in the village remain open for visits. People who attend can observe the locals as they work on the traditional crafts of the area.
Needless to say, it is also possible to try a lot of local specialties, such as “culurgiones“, a ravioli kind of pasta filled with potatoes, mint and cheese and served only with grated pecorino cheese.
6. Tokyo, Japan
Halloween has become a huge deal in Japan over the past five or six years, and it just keeps getting bigger every year.
While trick or treating hasn’t really taken off, the costume aspect certainly has. It fits nicely into Japanese cosplay culture, and Japan has a knack for taking Western holidays and traditions and putting a unique Japanese twist on them.
Rather than house parties, the Japanese, particularly young people, congregate in the streets in costumes. These “street parties” have become so popular that the police now just shut down the streets in high traffic areas.
The most popular places to celebrate Halloween in Tokyo are Shibuya and Roppongi. These street parties are a unique opportunity to meet lots of otherwise shy Japanese people, who quickly warm up to you when you have fun costumes as a conversation starter, especially if you are wearing the same one.
Jessica and her husband went to Shibuya as Mario and Luigi last year and we spent the night taking photos with all the other Marios and Luigis!
If you’re travelling in Japan during Halloween, pick up a cheap costume or a sexy Halloween costume if you’d like, and head to the streets for free Halloween fun! If Halloween falls on a weekday, expect most people to go out the weekend before. However, it’s getting so big now, even weekdays draw crowds!
“Pangangaluwa” is the term Filipino used for Halloween, though that word is no longer as common these days.
Halloween in the Philippines is a 3-day event. Starting from 31 October, kids and families don their Halloween costume and get out of their houses, hop in to other people’s houses or offices, and entertain the people with a small dance or a song in exchange for candies, toys or sometimes games.
This is also the day where families prepare something at night for the things they bring the next day for All Saint’s Day. Yes, it is All Saint’s Day on 1 November, and 2 November is All Soul’s Day. Yet, we Filipinos visit the cemetery as early as 1 November to celebrate the day with the loved ones who has passed away, offering flowers, drinks, food, and prayers.
Read: Coron, Palawan Itinerary
As a huge Catholic country, it is a chance for people to come together during this day. It’s one of the biggest holidays in the country, as everyone comes home, reunite with their families and celebrate it at the cemetery.
By this, we don’t mean a boring celebration. There’s a lot of things happening in the cemetery. Some families would be singing and dancing, while others would bring balloons, board games, a Karaoke set. You can find people in Halloween costumes drinking and eating everywhere!
Sharing is also a common practice with other people in the cemetery. There are even vendors selling food inside the cemetery in case locals run out of food.
8. Scotland, U.K.
Halloween in Scotland is a night of fun for the kids. Dressing up as anything from witches to cheerleaders they visit the neighbours “trick or treating”, a tradition brought over from the states. It wasn’t always like this though.
Much more common was “guising”, people would dress up in rags and old sacks, white sheets or bin bags, and have a “false face”. Adults would join in too. Especially in the small villages of the Highlands and Islands where you knew everyone in the area you would knock on the doors, be invited in for a wee dram of whisky (or lemonade for the kids) and the others would have to guess who you were. You then performed your song, trick or poem.
We used to “dook” for apples too. It was customary to carve neeps (turnips) instead of pumpkins as these were readily available. Treats were given such as fruit, sweets and monkey nuts. Many of these traditions still exist.
“Dooking” for apples is as popular as ever and bonfires are still lit in the villages to ward off the spirits, although the old rags have been replaced with outfits that get more and more elaborate with each passing year.
Fancy huh? Growing up in Singapore, we don’t practise a culture of dressing up. I never knew Halloween is regarded so highly in certain countries!
How do you celebrate Halloween in your country?