Geography of Halloween

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On All Hallows' Eve, Christians in some parts of the world visit graveyards to pray and place flowers and candles on the graves of their loved ones.[1]

Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, is a celebration observed on 31 October, the day before the feast of All Hallows'. The celebrations and observances of this day occur primarily in regions of the Western world, although some traditions vary significantly between geographical areas.


Halloween, also spelled as Hallowe'en or Allhallowe'en, is a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, the eve or vigil before the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) which is observed on 1 November. This day begins the triduum of Hallowtide, which cumulates with All Souls' Day. In the Middle Ages, many Christians held a folk belief that All Hallows' Eve was the "night where the veil between the material world and the afterlife was at its most transparent."[2]



The Chinese celebrate the "Hungry Ghost Festival" in mid-July, when it is customary to float river lanterns to remember those who have died. Halloween is called wànshèngjié (万圣节), and is largely celebrated by expatriate Americans or Canadians. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park (Halloween Bash) host annual Halloween shows.

Traditional "door-to-door" trick or treating is not commonly practiced in Hong Kong due to the vast majority of Hong Kong residents living in high-rise apartment blocks. However, in many buildings catering to expatriates, Halloween parties and limited trick or treating is arranged by the management. Instances of street-level trick or treating can be found in Hong Kong occur in ultra-exclusive gated housing communities such as The Beverly Hills populated by Hong Kong's super-rich and expatriate areas like Discovery Bay and the Red Hill Peninsula. For the general public, there are events at Tsim Sha Tsui's Avenue of the Stars that try to mimic the celebration.[3] In the Lan Kwai Fong area of Hong Kong, known as a major entertainment district for the international community, a Halloween celebration and parade has taken place for over 20 years, with many people dressing in costume and making their way around the streets to various drinking establishments.[4] Many international schools also celebrate Halloween with costumes, and some put an academic twist on the celebrations such as the "Book-o-ween" celebrations at Hong Kong International School where students dress as favorite literary characters.

Mainland China has been less influenced by Anglo traditions than Hong Kong and Halloween is generally considered "foreign." As Halloween has become more popular globally it has also become more popular in China, however, particularly amongst children attending private or international schools with many foreign teachers.[5]

Many Halloween decorations intended for sale in the West are manufactured in state-run labor camps.[6]

A Halloween display in a local bank window, in Saitama, Japan.


Halloween arrived only recently in Japan, mainly in the context of American pop culture. The wearing of elaborate costumes at night is recently very popular in areas such as Amerikamura in Osaka and Kobe where, in October 2012, about 1700 people dressed in costumes to take part in the Halloween Festival.[7] While "trick or treating" by children has not caught on, the holiday has become popular with young adults as a costume party and club event.[8]


The period from 31 October through 2 November is a time for remembering dead family members and friends. Many Filipinos travel back to their hometowns for family gatherings of festive remembrance.[9]

Trick-or treating is gradually replacing the dying tradition of Pangangaluluwâ, a local analogue of the old English custom of souling. People in the provinces still observe Pangangaluluwâ by going in groups to every house and offering a song in exchange for money or food. The participants, usually children, would sing carols about the souls in Purgatory, with the abúloy (alms for the dead) used to pay for Masses for these souls. Along with the requested alms, householders sometimes gave the children suman (rice cakes). During the night, various small items, such as clothing, plants, etc., would "mysteriously" disappear, only to be discovered the next morning in the yard or in the middle of the street. In older times, it was believed that the spirits of ancestors and loved ones visited the living on this night, manifesting their presence by taking an item.[10]


Around mid-July Singapore Chinese celebrate "Zhong Yuan Jie / Yu Lan Jie" (Hungry Ghosts Festival), a time when it is believed that the spirits of the dead come back to visit their families.[11] In recent years, Halloween celebrations are becoming more popular, with influence from the west.[12] In 2012, there were over 19 major Halloween celebration events around Singapore.[13] SCAPE's Museum of Horrors held its fourth scare fest in 2014.[14] Universal Studios Singapore hosts "Halloween Horror Nights".[15] Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand

While not traditionally a part of Australian culture, non-religious celebrations of Halloween modeled on North American festivities are growing increasingly popular in Australia,[16] in spite of seasonal differences and the transition from spring to summer. Criticism stems largely from the fact that Halloween has little relevance to Australian culture.[17][18] It is also considered, by some Australians, to be an unwanted American influence; as although Halloween does have Celtic/European origins, its increasing popularity in Australia is largely as a result of American pop-culture influence.[18][19] Supporters of the event claim that the critics fail to see that the event is not entirely American, but rather Celtic and is no different to embracing other cultural traditions such as Saint Patrick's Day.[20]

Due to the opposition to Halloween by some people, there is a growing movement where people are inviting trick-or-treaters to take part by putting a balloon or decoration on their letter box, to indicate that they are welcome to come knocking. In the past decade, the popularity of Halloween in Australia has grown.[21]

As in neighbouring Australia, Halloween in New Zealand is not celebrated to the same extent as in North America, although in recent years the non-religious celebrations have been achieving some popularity especially among young children.[22][23]


Halloween is more successful and partially ousting some older customs like the Rübengeistern (turnip ghosts), Martinisingen and others.[24] The University of Graz undertook a research project about Halloween led by Editha Hörandner. According to her, the often heard claims of Celtic or pagan origin is used as a sort of "quality brand" (Gütesiegel) for the authenticity of the tradition.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Halloween is a work day in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and not celebrated until recently. For the past few years, it has been popular among younger generations.[25] Since wearing masks has become highly popular among children and teenagers, e.g. in many Bosnian schools, both elementary as well as high schools (gymnasiums and vocational), students will usually wear costumes and masks on Halloween. There it is called Noć vještica (English translation: Night of Witches).

"Don't drink and fly" decoration for Halloween, 2008 in Pinneberg


Halloween was not generally observed in Germany prior to the 1990s, but has been increasing in popularity. It has been associated with the influence of U.S. culture, and "Trick or Treating" (in German, "Süßes sonst gibt's Saures") has been occurring in various German cities, especially in areas such as the Dahlem neighborhood in Berlin, which was part of the American zone during the Cold War. Today, Halloween in Germany brings in 200 million euros a year, through multiple industries.[26] Halloween is celebrated by both children and adults. Adults celebrate at themed costume parties and clubs, while children go trick or treating. Complaints of vandalism associated with Halloween "Tricks" are increasing, particular from many elderly Germans unfamiliar with "Trick or Treating."[27]


A traditional Irish turnip (rutabaga) jack-o'-lantern, c. early 20th century, on display in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

On Halloween night, adults and children dress up as ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, and goblins, light bonfires, and enjoy spectacular fireworks displays – in particular, the city of Derry is home to the largest organized Halloween celebration on the island, in the form of a street carnival and fireworks display.[28]
Snap-Apple Night (1832) by Daniel Maclise. Depicts apple bobbing and divination games at a Halloween party in Blarney, Ireland.

Games are often played, such as bobbing for apples, in which apples, peanuts, and other nuts and fruit and some small coins are placed in a basin of water.[29] Everyone takes turns catching as many items possible using only their mouths. Another common game involves the hands-free eating of an apple hung on a string attached to the ceiling. Games of divination are also played at Halloween.[30] Colcannon is traditionally served on Halloween.[29]

31 October is the busiest day of the year for the Emergency Services.[31] Bangers and fireworks are illegal in the Republic of Ireland; however, they are commonly smuggled in from Northern Ireland where they are legal.[32] Bonfires are frequently built around Halloween.[33] Trick-or-treating is popular amongst children on 31 October and Halloween parties and events are commonplace.

File:Pumpkin zucca Bono Sant'Andria.JPG
Carved pumpkin, Bono, Sardinia


In Italy All Saints' Day is a public holiday. On 2 November, Tutti i Morti or All Souls' Day, families remember loved ones who have passed away. These are still the main holidays.[34] In some Italian tradition, children would awake on the morning of All Saints or All Souls to find small gifts from their deceased ancestors. In Sardinia, Concas de Mortu (Head of the deads), carved pumpkins that look like skulls, with candles inside are displayed.[35][36][37] Halloween is, however, gaining in popularity, and involves costume parties for young adults.[38] The traditions to carve pumpkins in a skull figure, lighting candles inside, or to beg for small gifts for the deads e.g. sweets or nuts, also belong to North Italy, where Celtic roots were stronger.[39] In Veneto these carved pumpkins were called lumère (lanterns) or suche dei morti (deads' pumpkins).[40]


Romanians observe the Feast of St. Andrew, patron saint of Romania, on 30 November. On St. Andrew's Eve ghosts are said to be about. A number of customs related to divination, in other places connected to Halloween, are associated with this night.[41] However, with the popularity of Dracula in western Europe, around Halloween the Romanian tourist industry promotes trips to locations connected to the historical Vlad Tepes and the more fanciful Dracula of Bram Stoker. The most successful Halloween Party in Transylvania takes place in Sighisoara, the citadel where Vlad the Impaler was born.[42][dubious ]

Both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Romania discourage Halloween celebrations, advising their parishioners to focus rather on the "Day of the Dead" on 1 November, when special religious observances are held for the souls of the deceased.[43] Opposition by religious and nationalist groups, including calls to ban costumes and decorations in schools in 2015, have been met with criticism.[44][45][46] Halloween parties are popular in bars and nightclubs.[47]


Celebration of Halloween began in the 1990s, when costume and ghoulish parties spread throughout night clubs throughout Russia. Halloween is generally celebrated by younger generations and is not widely celebrated in civic society (e.g. theaters or libraries). In fact, Halloween is among the Western celebrations that the Russian government and politicians—which have grown increasingly anti-Western in the early 2010s—are trying to eliminate from public celebration.[48][49][50]


In Switzerland, Halloween, after first becoming popular in 1999 is on the wane, and is most popular with young adults who attend parties. Switzerland already has a "festival overload" and even though Swiss people like to dress up for any occasion, they do prefer a traditional element, such as in the Fasnacht tradition of chasing away winter using noise and masks.[51][52]

United Kingdom


In the past, on All Souls' Eve families would stay up late, and little "soul cakes" were eaten. At the stroke of midnight, there was solemn silence among households, which had candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes and a glass of wine on the table to refresh them. The tradition of giving soul cakes that originated in Great Britain and Ireland was known as souling, often seen as the origin of modern trick or treating in North America, and souling continued in parts of England as late as the 1930s, with children going from door to door singing songs and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes or money.[53]

American-style Halloween celebrations have become increasingly popular with shops decorated with witches and pumpkins, and young people attending costume parties.[54]


The name Halloween is first attested in the 16th century as a Scottish shortening of the fuller All-Hallows-Even, that is, the night before All Hallows Day.[55] Dumfries poet John Mayne's 1780 poem made note of pranks at Halloween; "What fearfu' pranks ensue!". Scottish poet Robert Burns was influenced by Maynes composition, and portrayed some of the customs in his poem Halloween (1785).[56] According to Burns, Halloween is "thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands".[57]

Among the earliest record of Guising at Halloween in Scotland is in 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money.[58] If children approached the door of a house, they were given offerings of food. The children's practice of "guising", going from door to door in costumes for food or coins, is a traditional Halloween custom in Scotland.[59] These days children who knock on their neighbours doors have to sing a song or tell stories for a gift of sweets or money.[60]

A traditional Halloween game includes apple "dooking",[61] or "dunking" or (i.e., retrieving one from a bucket of water using only one's mouth), and attempting to eat, while blindfolded, a treacle/jam-coated scone hanging on a piece of string.

Traditional customs and lore include divination practices, ways of trying to predict the future. A traditional Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name.[62]


Scottish emigration, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country. The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street "guising" on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs.[59] Canadians spend more on candy at Halloween than at any time apart from Christmas. Halloween is also a time for charitable contributions. Until 2006 when UNICEF moved to an online donation system, collecting small change for was very much a part of Canadian trick-or-treating.[63] Quebec offers themed tours of parts of the old city and historic cemeteries in the area.[64] In 2014 the hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut moved their Halloween festivities to the community hall, cancelling the practice of door-to-door "trick or treating", due to the risk of roaming polar bears.[65][66] In British Columbia it is a tradition to set off fireworks at Halloween.[67]

United States

In the United States, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays, Halloween did not become a holiday until the 19th century. The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Great Famine (1845–49) brought the holiday to the United States.

American librarian and author Ruth Edna Kelley wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the U.S; The Book of Hallowe'en (1919), and references souling in the chapter Hallowe'en in America; "All Hallowe'en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries. The taste in Hallowe'en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Robert Burns's poem Halloween as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe'en is out of fashion now".[68] The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children, teenagers, (sometimes) young adults, and parents (accompanying their children) disguise themselves in costumes and go door to door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "Trick or treat!" to solicit a gift of candy or similar items.[69] Teenagers and adults will more frequently attend Halloween-themed costume parties typically hosted by friends or themed events at nightclubs either on Halloween itself or a weekend close to the holiday.

At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween had turned into a night of vandalism, with destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people.[70] Around 1912, the Boy Scouts, Boys Clubs, and other neighborhood organizations came together to encourage a safe celebration that would end the destruction that had become so common on this night.[71]

The commercialization of Halloween in the United States did not start until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween postcards (featuring hundreds of designs), which were most popular between 1905 and 1915.[72] Dennison Manufacturing Company (which published its first Halloween catalog in 1909) and the Beistle Company were pioneers in commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper items.[73][74] German manufacturers specialised in Halloween figurines that were exported to the United States in the period between the two World Wars.

Halloween is now the United States' second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating; the sale of candy and costumes is also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. The National Confectioners Association (NCA) reported in 2005 that 80 percent of American adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters.[75] The NCA reported in 2005 that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.[76] According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular Halloween costume themes for adults are, in order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat, and clown.[77] Each year, popular costumes are dictated by various current events and pop culture icons. On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest 31 October hosting many costume parties. Other popular activities are watching horror movies and visiting haunted houses.


File:Slick Chicks Halloween 1947.jpg
Four contestants in the Halloween Slick Chick beauty contest in Anaheim, California, 1947

Many theme parks stage Halloween activities. One of the more notable Halloween parades is the Village Halloween Parade which takes place in New York City. Each year approximately 50,000 costumed marchers parade up Sixth Avenue.[78] Salem, Massachusetts, site of the Salem witch trials, celebrates Halloween throughout the month of October with tours, plays, concerts, and other activities.[79] A number of venues in New York's lower Hudson Valley host various events to showcase a connection with Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Van Cortlandt Manor stages the "Great Jack o' Lantern Blaze" featuring thousands of lighted carved pumpkins.[80]

Some locales have had to modify their celebrations due to disruptive behavior on the part of young adults. Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, hosts an annual Halloween celebrations. In 2002 due to the large crowds in the State Street area, a riot broke out, necessitating the use of mounted police and tear gas to disperse the crowds.[81] Likewise, Chapel Hill, site of the University of North Carolina, has a downtown street party which in 2007 drew a crowd estimated at 80,000 on downtown Franklin Street, in a town with a population of just 54,000. In 2008, in an effort to curb the influx of out-of-towners, mayor Kevin Foy put measures in place to make commuting downtown more difficult on Halloween.[82] In 2014, large crowds of college students rioted at the Keene, New Hampshire Pumpkin Fest,[83] whereupon the City Council voted not to grant a permit for the following year's festival,[84] and organizers moved the event to Laconia for 2015.[85]


File:Bonaire Holloween.jpg
The children of the largest town in Bonaire gather together on Halloween day.

Saint Helena

In Saint Helena, Halloween is actively celebrated, largely along the American model, with ghosts, skeletons, devils, vampires, witches and the like. Imitation pumpkins are used instead of real pumpkins because the pumpkin harvesting season in Saint Helena's hemisphere is not near Halloween. Trick-or-treating is widespread. Party venues provide entertainment for adults.[86]


The "Wild Wadi Waterpark" in Dubai hosts a "Spooktacular Halloween".[87] The annual Halloween masquerade ballroom dancing party takes place at "Dance For You" studio.[88]

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic it has been gaining popularity, largely due to many Dominicans living in the States and then bringing it to the island. In the larger cities of Santiago or Santo Domingo it has become more common to see children trick-or-treating, but in smaller towns and villages it is almost entirely absent, partly due to religious opposition. Tourist areas such as Sosua and Punta Cana feature many venues with Halloween celebrations, predominantly geared towards adults.[89]

Contemporary references

The search engine Google has been making interactive google doodles for Halloween every year. Their 2013 Halloween doodle depicted a witch brewing a concoction in a cauldron while reading a book of spells. Their 2012 Halloween doodle depicted a series of dark haunted houses.[90][91][92]

See also


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Further reading