Boo! Halloween is just around the corner, and you are probably in the throes of candy, decorations, and costumes. The holiday is significant around the world, and many countries have their own traditions and history.

The customs we are used to seeing in the United States today have a Gaelic and Welsh influence, linked to the Festival of Samhain, which means “summer’s end.”  This marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  It was also a time when offerings were given to the souls of the dead. In more modern times, the festival included mumming. People went door to door in costume and recited verses and songs in exchange for food. This quickly led to pranking which could be “blamed” on spirits. Hence the term “trick or treat.” Much like the game Telephone, many countries have expanded and tweaked the tradition throughout history.

In Austria, people leave bread and water out before they go to bed. This was to welcome back souls on a magical night.

In Germany, people put away all knives for the night. The reason is to not risk harm to (or from) souls that are returning.

In Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside Halloween night. There is a chair for each living family member and also a chair for each family member who has passed on.

In Mexico, they celebrate “El Dia de los Muertos.”  The days of the dead is a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31 and ends on November 2. Parades are all over, and people dress up as skeletons and dance in the streets. It is quite the festival!

In Hong Kong, they celebrate the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, or “Yue Lan.” People burn pictures of fruit or money as offering to the spirits they believe are roaming for this 24 hour period, in hopes of bringing them peace.

As you see, the world celebrates Halloween in many fun and interesting ways! Is there a special way you celebrate this holiday, or is it the standard trick-or-treating? Let us know in the comments, and have a safe and Happy Halloween!