Halloween is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. The Harris Poll reported that in 2011, Halloween was the third most popular holiday in the United States, behind only Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s not just Americans who get excited about Halloween, every continent, (except for Antarctica) have holiday traditions on Oct. 31.
In the United States, people dress up in costumes to go around town and receive candy from their neighbors. Ranging from ghosts, ghouls, witches and wizards, to superheroes and princesses, children walk around on Oct. 31 asking for candy saying, “Trick or treat?” While these traditions are largely celebrated only in the United States and Canada, they are beginning to catch on around the world.
PJ Belbin, a freshman from Texas studying biology, said he trick-or-treated when growing up in New Zealand. “In my family we have a tradition where we dress up in a gorilla suit and wait next to the candy and grab their arms to scare them. Halloween’s a time for us to get together, and spend time together to enjoy yourself.”
Halloween, as it is celebrated in the United States, is rooted in Irish and Scottish traditions. In the olden days, Irish and Scottish children would dress up as ghosts and evil spirits to ward off unwanted spirits. This tradition continues in Scotland and Ireland, though these days adults and children dress up as creatures of the underworld like zombies, witches, goblins and ghosts. Bonfires are lit, and party games, such as bobbing for apples, are played. Trick-or-treating is popular as well. “I hated it when I was a kid. It scared me as a kid, so I didn’t like it at first, but later on I really started to love it. I feel like I missed out in my childhood so now I love trick-or-treating,” said Joe Maas, a freshman from Idaho. “I love the candy. Candy is really good. And kids going around trick-or-treating. I think, is really cute.”
Halloween is not celebrated with trick-or-treating everywhere. Oct. 31, the “Day of the Dead,” is celebrated in some countries along with Nov. 1, or “All Saint’s Day.” It is set aside to remember deceased loved ones and ancestors. All Saint’s Day is predominantly celebrated in countries where the Catholic Church has a large presence, such as most of Europe, the Philippines and Mexico. However other churches also observe All Saint’s Day including the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican Communion, Lutheran and Methodist churches.
On Oct. 31 in Mexico, people gather to honor and remember their deceased relatives with parades and large parties. In much of Europe there is a tradition of taking candles to the graves of deceased family members on All Saint’s Day. It is not uncommon for families to travel far and stay with other family and friends to visit the graveyards where their loved ones are buried. In the Philippines, people also gather together at the grave sites of family members and ancestors, offering prayers, flowers, candles and even food.
Other parts of Asia besides the Philippines celebrate Oct. 31 as well. “In Hong Kong it’s more a time when people have big events,” said Keith Tung, a sophomore from Hong Kong studying social work. “We’ve got all the theme parks that do the same thing the whole week [of Halloween]... We don’t go trick-or-treating, that’s not a thing in Hong Kong. I guess you can’t because we all live in buildings, and it’s kind of awkward to go from door to door.”