Halloween has been celebrated in countless different ways throughout the years. It has its roots in pagan culture, and we have the Irish to thank for bringing it to North America. However, no two countries celebrate the holiday in quite the same way. Some of these traditions are still carried out today, while others have been abandoned due to the changing times. It’s not all candy corn and tricks or treats around the world.
1. In Wales, families would build a bonfire called a “coelcerth.” Into this bonfire, each member would throw a small stone with his or her name written on it. If their stone wasn’t found in the morning, they were going to die within the next year.
2. Before pumpkins became de rigeur, the Irish carved turnips and beets.
3. The Irish also serve a dish called “barnbrack.” Baked inside are trinkets that predict your future. If you bite into the thimble, you’ll be single forever.
4. Many countries believe that loved ones return on Halloween night. In Austria, it was customary to leave food out for those ghosts to eat in case they were hungry upon visiting. It’s only good manners to feed your guests, right?
5. Germans hide their knives and other sharp objects on Halloween, just in case. You wouldn’t want a ghost to hurt itself, would you?
6. The Japanese celebrate their version of Halloween, Obon, in August. Your relatives will come to visit you on this day, so please hang a lantern by your door to light their way.
7. “Trick or treat”ing has its roots in souling, where the very poor people of England would go door-to-door begging for food. If they were given what was called a “soul cake,” they needed to pray for that house’s inhabitants all year.
8. Both Russians and Belgians are wary of black cats on Halloween night. If one crosses your path that night, you’re in for some baaaaaad luck, man.
9. In Czech Republic, family members place chairs by the fire: one for each living member, and one for the dead. They also believe that on Halloween, you can speak and hear from the dead. Drinking a glass of cold milk on Halloween helps soothe the burning souls of the undead.
10. We all know about El Dia de los Muertos, the three-day Day of the Dead festival in Latin America. There are parties and picnics at the graves of loved ones. Often, family members build an altar to honor their departed and fill it with flowers, photos and treats. There are feasts honoring the spirits, who are believed in drop in during this time. During the Dia de los Muertos parades, a living person is carried through the streets in a coffin.
11. Many countries celebrate Halloween night by playing pranks and causing mischief. This has been known as “Mischief Night” or “Devil’s Night.” However, throughout the years it has gotten a little out of control, and now cities like Detroit have an “Angel’s Night” to help thwart mischief-makers who tend to be a little violent or disruptive.
12. Several European countries play the apple peeling game, where you peel an apple in one strip and then throw it behind your back. Whatever “letter” it creates when it lands is the first initial of your future husband’s name.
13. Celtic New Year is November 1. On that night, they believed that the dead could speak to us and predict the future. Many would dress up like spirits just in case they met one; real recognize real, you know.
14. In Italy, you’ll eat Fave di Morti, “beans of the dead.” Certain romantic Italian men also use this night to propose to their ladies, hiding the ring in a box of dead people’s beans. Hmm.
15. If you’re celebrating Halloween in Guatemala, you’ll help burn down a likeness of the Devil to keep away bad spirits.
16. Sweden’s version of Halloween, Alla Helgons Dag, lasts six whole days and is a giant party. One thing that makes it different from American Halloween is that the Swedes use it to set a positive intention to carry them from winter to spring. They also drink. A lot.
17. The Chinese celebrate their Halloween in July, and during that time they believe that spirits are wandering around, looking for both food and ways to become part of the living world again. To comfort them, families leave food and lights out for them.
18. Halloween traditions like candy apples and bobbing for apples have their roots in ancient Rome. Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit trees, and as the Celts celebrated Halloween during their harvest, the two melded and they celebrated Pomona’s work during that time.
19. Bobbing for apples became a popular Halloween parlor game. If you were the first one to successfully grab an apple between your teeth, you’d soon find true love. Then, if you slept with said apple under your pillow (ouch), you’d dream about that true love.
20. A few weeks before Halloween, Minnesotans celebrate the now-legendary, Guinness record-breaking Zombie Pub Crawl. Basically you wear your best undead apparel, get drunk and listen to “undead” bands like Sum 41.