Halloween around the world

Oct. 29, 2014

By Amber Levenhagen

Halloween is an American holiday by tradition, however, many cultures celebrate in their own way. What started as an ancient religious ritual is now a day celebrated with costumes, trick-or-treating and parties.

Forty-five countries currently are represented on campus, according to the UW-Whitewater Center for Global Education. Some of the most popular countries, in terms of student representation, are China, Saudi Arabia and various European countries.

Halloween originated as an ancient Celtic holiday that was used to mark the end of the harvest season. It was believed this transition between seasons was a connection to the world of the dead, according to history.com. Immigrants traveling from Ireland brought a combination of the Christian and Celtic holiday back home to America.

Valdir Eduardo Teles Amorim is from Brazil and studies computer science at UW-W. Some of the American traditions are present in Brazil, but it is not the same, According to Amorim.

“We do celebrate Halloween in Brazil – we also call it Witches Day – but it is not something that everyone does,” Amorim said. “Also, [trick-or-treating] is almost only seen in closed areas like condominiums and apartment complexes.”

Trick-or-treating is a common Halloween festivity in many countries. Some have different variations of the event. It is typical for children to dress up and go house to house in hopes of receiving candy and showing off their costumes. Children in parts of Canada will say “Halloween apples” instead of “trick or treat” when presenting their candy totes to doors of Canadian residents.

Some countries don’t celebrate Halloween on the day Americans do.

Children in Sweden dress up like witches and go trick-or-treating on the Thursday before Easter.

China holds a Ghost Festival based on the Chinese calendar. It is believed on this day, ghosts and spirits wander with the living in search of food and festivities. Another name for this celebration is the Hungry Ghost Festival. Activities for the month surrounding this day include preparing food, burning incense and burning papier-mâché versions of material possessions as an offering to the ancestors whose spirits come to Earth on the day of the Ghost Festival.

Even though some don’t celebrate Halloween at all, it is still a fun day to enjoy with friends. Communications Professor Delwar Hossain is originally from Bangladesh, where it is not typical to celebrate Halloween.

“I usually go out with friends and have fun on that day,” Hossain said. “I think it is a part of the culture in the U.S. It is really nice to see that people are having fun.”

Amorim also plans to celebrate the holiday with friends. He has plans to go to a Halloween party and also to attend Freak Fest.

Freak Fest is the annual Halloween party located on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin.  Attendees dress up in costumes and enjoy live music; this year the Fest includes music from Atmosphere, American Authors and The Mowgli’s.

Some Whitewater students, like Jake Smith, are spending this semester studying abroad and will experience Halloween in a different culture.

Smith is studying in Korea and describes Halloween there as “absolutely amazing.”

He said Halloween isn’t typically celebrated, but because of a high population of foreigners, people end up celebrating.

“You could say it is more of a commercial holiday here,” Smith said in an email. “Itaewon is the ‘foreigner’ area of Seoul so that is where everyone, including myself, will be going.”

“People will be dressing up and going out drinking,” Smith added in regards to the association of drinking with Halloween parties. “From what I understand there is no trick-or-treating and that the only celebration of Halloween is the partying.”

“Drinking culture here is very different from the states so the fact that everyone is going somewhere with the sole intention to drink and have fun for a night is
completely OK,” Smith said.

Amorim also shared insight in the trend of Halloween celebrations.

“Most of [the] people prefer to celebrate by throwing a party and invite their friends or go to the night clubs that provide Halloween themed parties,” Amorim said.

The movement of the Halloween tradition from Ireland to America is responsible for the popular American traditions, such as pumpkin carving. In this tradition, originating from an Irish myth called “Stingy Jack,” people carved into turnips, potatoes and large beets instead of pumpkins.

The story is about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack” and how he played tricks on the devil to keep him from bothering him.  Eventually, Jack died, and because of his tricks, the devil could not claim his soul nor would God for his foolishness. This forced Jack to wander the earth for all of eternity. He was given a burning coal from the Devil, and Jack found a home in a carved-out turnip.

In order to ward Jack away, people from Ireland and Scotland began carving scary faces into vegetables. They were called lanterns, which then lead to the term “Jack of the lantern” and, eventually, “Jack O’ Lanterns,” what the carved pumpkins are now called.

Smith said he will miss certain aspects of the Halloween season in the U.S. while abroad like “friends and pumpkin pie.”

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