Halloween has been celebrated around the world for centuries — though not quite like it is today.
The origins of modern-day Halloween started with Samhain, a holiday celebrated by the pagans. As Christianity spread across Europe (by around 700 AD), the celebration of Samhain morphed into the Catholic holiday, All Saints Day.
Common traditions, celebrating Halloween may include trick-or-treating, eating treats, and telling spooky stories.
While modern-day Halloween is most popular in the U.S., cultures around the world host similar celebrations to honor the dead and ward off evil.
Halloween Celebrations Around the World
Not every culture has its own version of Halloween. Some countries, like Greece, don’t really celebrate this holiday at all (save for a handful of ex-pats who reside there).
Yet, many countries celebrate some form of Halloween, Samhain, or All Saints Day.
If you happen to visit any of the below countries at the end of October, ask a local how you can take part in these celebrations. It’s always best to ask locals about attending local celebrations, as many of them are religious or for families only and aren’t appropriate for tourists.
Who does Halloween quite like it’s done in the U.S.?
While the U.S. doesn’t own the entire market on this holiday (let’s be honest, it wasn’t even invented by us!), our Halloween celebrations have become iconic around the world, thanks to movies like Hocus Pocus, Halloween, and more.
Most Halloween celebrations in the U.S. aren’t religious or family occasions, so it’s totally appropriate to take part if you happen to be visiting.
New England, in particular, is known for its Halloween celebrations. Head to Salem, MA, to learn about the history of the Salem witch trials; visit Sleepy Hollow, where Icabod Crane took his fateful nighttime ride, chased by a headless horseman; or simply don a costume and go trick-or-treating.
Mexico is starting to embrace the pop-culture version of Halloween, though it’s still true to its own Dia de los Muertos.
Celebrated the two days after Halloween (November 1 and 2) and Halloween night, this is a day of honoring those who have passed on.
This holiday falls on All Sants Day and some traditions overlap with the Catholic holiday (Mexico is more than 80% Catholic). Families gather together to place offerings on the ofrenda, an altar that is decorated with pictures of departed loved ones. Many Mexicans also dress up in sugar skull costumes and attend parties.
On the second day (All Souls Day), families visit the graves of loved ones with more offerings.
While parties and parades are public events, many graveyards are closed to tourists on these days. If you want to visit a graveyard, booking a tour with a local is one way to do this respectfully.
While Day of the Dead isn’t as popular of a holiday in Spain as it is in Mexico, it is celebrated in this European country.
Just as in Mexico, Spaniards celebrate the Day of the Dead as a three-day holiday that runs from October 31 to November 2. November 1 is a national holiday in Spain.
October 31, known as Día de las Brujas, Day of the Witches, isn’t as popular as All Saints Day. As in Mexico, many of these celebrations are family or religious ceremonies, and it isn’t always appropriate for tourists to attend.
Halloween itself isn’t as popular in Italy as it is in other parts of the world. Italians have sort of adopted an American version of this holiday.
In Italy, locals honored the holiday of Feralia, a celebration similar to Day of the Dead — though, in Italy, it was celebrated at the end of February.
These days, Italians skip Feralia and instead celebrate Carnival, which ends on Shrove Tuesday (similar to Fat Tuesday, celebrated stateside).
The British Isles go all out on Halloween — though not in quite the same way that the holiday is celebrated in other areas of the world.
Unlike in the U.S. or Latin America, the traditions here are neither commercial nor Catholic. Instead, they pay homage to Samhain, Guy Fawkes, and (of course) the dearly departed.
In Ireland, you’ll find the Celtic traditions alive and well. Samhain was originally a feast to celebrate the end of the harvest season and usher in the season of darkness.
As in Latin American, food and drink were common offerings for both the gods and deceased family members. Mumming and guising were the traditions from which our modern-day trick-or-treating originates.
These days, most of Ireland celebrates Halloween similarly to the U.S., with costumes and candy and trick-or-treating. Of course, you may still find a festival paying homage to Samhain here. Locals light bonfires, carve Jack-o-lanterns from turnips, and serve Barmbrack (a dessert bread) and Colcannon (potatoes with onions and cabbage).
Scotland is one of the most haunted areas of the world!
And while Halloween celebrations don’t feel as commercial here as they do in the U.S., they certainly give American Halloween a run for its money in the spook factor.
Haunted tours run throughout the month of October, especially in cities like Edinburgh. A short train ride away, London is also known for its ghost tours (particularly in London Dungeon).
Guy Fawkes Day
While Guy Fawkes Day isn’t a Halloween celebration per se, though it is often associated with Halloween because it’s celebrated just a few days after (November 5).
It marks the anniversary of the day a plot to blow up the London Houses of Parliament was thwarted. Brits celebrate by lighting bonfires and Guy Fawkes dummies and setting off fireworks.
While Halloween itself isn’t terribly popular with Transylvania locals, the country has cashed in on events geared toward tourists — especially Dracula-themed ones.
Many of Transylvania’s castles lead haunted tours. You can even tour the home of Vlad the Impaler, the historic figure who inspired the story of Dracula.