Halloween Practices Around The World
Halloween practices have evolved over the centuries. From its beginnings as a pagan ritual, to its adoption into Christian society, its many incarnations have carried with it a plethora of traditions ranging from the spooky to the downright silly.
There are many practices associated with the holiday, but the most popular would probably be ancient Halloween art of guising. More commonly known today as trick-or-treating, guising is thought to have originated from the Christian holiday “All Saints’ Day”. It was a common superstition that the night before All Saints’ Day was the last chance that spirits had to get revenge or play tricks on the living, so many people would disguise their identities from the vengeful spirits by wearing masks. The process of going door to door also originates from All Saints’ Day in the middle ages, when poor folk would beg for food in return for offering their prayers for the deceased. Today, in areas of Scotland and Ireland, candy is handed out only in exchange for a performance of some kind. Children coming to the door must perform something simple, such as a joke or a card trick, and in return their bags are filled with sweets.
Another custom is the traditional Halloween haunted houses. These haunted attractions aren’t exclusive to worn down homes, but also include abandoned prisons, insane asylums, old farms, and even warehouses. Whether professional or amateur, a haunted house usually includes lots of fog and any ornaments that might scare its guests, creating a spooky and disturbing atmosphere all in the name of good fun. The theme of the haunted house has even in some cases been applied outdoors, with trails taking patrons through a haunted forest located beside a small Halloween city or village.
The game of apple bobbing is also a tradition that has come to be associated with Halloween. It is said to have begun when ancient Rome conquered Britain. With them they took the apple tree, which they revered to be a representation of Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees and fertility. When sliced in half, an apple’s seeds appear to be arranged in a pentagram, a shape the Celts also associated with fertility. The two superstitions lead people of the time to believe that apples were an omen of fertility, and it is from that belief that the custom of bobbing for apples came about. Young men and women would traditionally dive for apples either in a tub of water or hanging from a string, and it was believed that the first one to catch an apple with their mouths would be the next to marry, much like the ritual of tossing a bouquet at a wedding.
Everywhere you go on Halloween, you’ll be sure to notice plenty of jack-o-lanterns decorating porches. The art of pumpkin carving has long been associated with Halloween, but it initially began with turnips in the British Isles. It was originally done as a way of honoring the souls of those who had passed away. The transition from turnip to pumpkin took place when European settlers came to North America, and began to prefer the pumpkin for its size and softness.
The traditions and practices of Halloween have changed over the centuries, and are likely still changing. Many cities have recently begun hosting an annual “zombie walk” around Halloween, where hundreds of zombified pedestrians will march on the street, recreating a zombie apocalypse. There’s no telling what Halloween will be like in the future, or what new customs will develop to celebrate this holiday, but it will always be a great way to have fun and be creative.