Geography of Halloween

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On All Hallows' Eve, Christians in some parts of the world visit graveyards to pray and place flowers and candles on the graves of their loved ones.[1]

Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, is a celebration observed on 31 October, the day before the feast of All Hallows'. The celebrations and observances of this day occur primarily in regions of the Western world, although some traditions vary significantly between geographical areas.[2]


Main article: Halloween

Halloween, also spelled as Hallowe'en or Allhallowe'en, is a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, the eve or vigil before the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) which is observed on 1 November. This day begins the triduum of Hallowtide, which cumulates with All Souls' Day. In the Middle Ages, many Christians held a folk belief that All Hallows' Eve was the "night where the veil between the material world and the afterlife was at its most transparent."[3]



The more commercialized event is celebrated by expatriate Americans or Canadians. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park (Halloween Bash) host annual Halloween shows. Lan Kwai Fong bars will be decked out with Halloween decorations to lure ex-pats and locals interest in Halloween.[4]

Traditional "door-to-door" trick or treating is not commonly practiced in Hong Kong due to the vast majority of Hong Kong residents living in high-rise apartment blocks. However, in many buildings catering to expatriates, Halloween parties and limited trick or treating is arranged by the management. Instances of street-level trick or treating can be found in Hong Kong occur in ultra-exclusive gated housing communities such as The Beverly Hills populated by Hong Kong's super-rich and expatriate areas like Discovery Bay and the Red Hill Peninsula. For the general public, there are events at Tsim Sha Tsui's Avenue of the Stars that try to mimic the celebration.[5]

Mainland China has been less influenced by Anglo traditions than Hong Kong and Halloween is generally considered "foreign." As Halloween has become more popular globally it has also become more popular in China, however, particularly amongst children attending private or international schools with many foreign teachers.[6]


A Halloween display in a local bank window, in Saitama, Japan.

Halloween arrived only recently in Japan, mainly in the context of American pop culture. Western-style Halloween decorations such as jack-o'-lanterns can be seen in many locations, and places such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan put on special Halloween events. The wearing of elaborate costumes at night is recently very popular in areas such as Amerikamura in Osaka and Kobe where, in October 2012, about 1700 people dressed in costumes to take part in the Halloween Festival.[7]


In Philippines, Halloween is celebrated as All Saints Day 1 November, immediately followed by All Souls day (Araw ng Patay) on 2 November.[8]

Trick-or treating is gradually replacing the tradition of Pangangaluluwà, a local version of the old English custom of souling. Some provinces in the Philippines still celebrates "Pangangaluluwa" by forming a group that will go house to house and offer a song in exchange for money or food. But like other traditions, this tradition is starting to fade. The custom had Filipino children singing carols about the souls in Purgatory and asking for abúloy (alms for the deceased) to pay for Masses for the dead. Along with the requested alms, householders sometimes gave the children suman (rice cake). During the night various small items, such as items of clothing, plants, etc., would "mysteriously" disappear, only to be discovered the next morning in the yard, or in the middle of the street. In older times, it was believed that during Halloween, spirits of loved ones visit and manifest their visit by taking an item.[9]


Singapore Chinese celebrates "Zhong Yuan Jie / Yu Lan Jie" (Hungry Ghosts Festival, some sort of Chinese Halloween) during lunar seventh month. It is believed that the gates of hell are opened and the spirits come back to visit their families. Throughout the month, there will be Chinese Opera and live music performances on a temporary setup stage and outdoor banquet dinner near the stage in various districts of Singapore.[10] These performances and banquets are funded by residents of the individual district.

In recent years, Halloween celebration is becoming more and more popular in Singapore, with influences from the west and probably the fun element of Halloween.[11] In 2011, citizens vented frustration because Wildlife Reserves Singapore decided to cancel its Halloween event.[12] In 2012, there are over 19 major Halloween celebration events around Singapore.[13] In 2013, Universal Studios Singapore Halloween Horror Nights is coming back for the third time.[14] Sentosa Spooktacular is back for the fifth time since 2009.[15][16] Museum of Horrors is back for the fourth time.[17]

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

While not traditionally a part of Australian culture, non-religious celebrations of Halloween modeled on North American festivities are growing in momentum in Australia, in spite of seasonal differences and the transition from spring to summer. Criticism stems largely from the fact that Halloween has little relevance to Australian culture.[18][19][20] It is also considered, by some Australians, to be an unwanted American influence; as although Halloween does have Celtic/European origins, its increasing popularity in Australia is largely as a result of American pop-culture influence.[20][21] Supporters of the event claim that the critics fail to see that the event is not entirely American, but rather Celtic and is no different to embracing other cultural traditions such as Saint Patrick's Day (an Irish tradition).[22]

As in neighbouring Australia, Halloween in New Zealand is not celebrated to the same extent as in North America, although in recent years the non-religious celebrations have been achieving some popularity especially among young children.[23]


The children of the largest town in Bonaire gather together on Halloween day.

Halloween is more successful and partially ousting some older customs like the Rübengeistern (turnip ghosts), Martinisingen and others.[24] The University of Graz undertook a research project about Halloween led by Editha Hörandner. According to her, the often heard claims of Celtic or pagan origin is used as a sort of "quality brand" (Gütesiegel) for the authenticity of the tradition.

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, vignesh Halloween was not celebrated until recently. For the past few years, it has been popular among younger generations.[25] Halloween is a work day in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since wearing masks has become highly popular among children and teenagers, e.g. in many Bosnian schools, both elementary as well as high schools (gymnasiums and vocational), students will usually wear costumes and masks on Halloween. There it is called Noć vještica (English translation: Night of Witches).


"Don't drink and fly" decoration for Halloween, 2008 in Pinneberg

Halloween was not generally observed in Germany prior to the 1990s, in part due to the opposition of the Lutheran Church. It has been increasing in popularity, however, with a fifth of Germans now telling pollsters they celebrate Halloween. Halloween has been associated with the influence of U.S. culture, and "Trick or Treating" (in German,"Süßes oder Saures") has been occurring in some areas such as the Dahlem neighborhood in Berlin, which was part of the American zone during the Cold War. Complaints of vandalism associated with Halloween "Tricks" are increasing, particular from many elderly Germans unfamiliar with "Trick or Treating."[26]


A traditional Irish turnip (rutabaga) jack-o'-lantern, c. early 20th century, on display in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

On Halloween night, adults and children dress up as creatures from the underworld (e.g., ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, and goblins), light bonfires, and enjoy spectacular fireworks displays – in particular, the city of Derry is home to the largest organized Halloween celebration on the island, in the form of a street carnival and fireworks display.[27]

Snap-Apple Night (1832) by Daniel Maclise. Depicts apple bobbing and divination games at a Halloween party in Blarney, Ireland.

Games are often played, such as bobbing for apples, in which apples, peanuts, and other nuts and fruit and some small coins are placed in a basin of water. The apples and nuts float, but the coins, which sink, are harder to catch. Everyone takes turns catching as many items possible using only their mouths. In some households, the coins are embedded in the fruit for the children to "earn" as they catch each apple. Another common game involves the hands-free eating of an apple hung on a string attached to the ceiling. Games of divination are also played at Halloween, but are becoming less popular.[28] Lunchtime (the midday meal, sometimes called "dinner" in Ireland[29]), on Halloween is called Colcannon.

Halloween is today associated with anti-social behaviour with 31 October being the busiest day of the year for the Emergency Services.[30][31][32] Bangers and fireworks are illegal in the Republic of Ireland; however, they are commonly smuggled in from Northern Ireland where they are legal.[33][34][35] Bonfires are frequently built around Halloween.[36] Trick-or-treating is popular amongst children on 31 October and Halloween parties and events are commonplace.


Halloween in Romania is celebrated around the myth of "Dracula" on 31 October.[citation needed] The spirit of Dracula is believed to live there[where?] because the town[which?]was the site of many witch trials; these are recreated today by actors on the night of Halloween.[37] The most successful Halloween Party in Transylvania takes place in Sighisoara, the citadel where Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) was born.[38] The prestigious Fodor's travel guide placed Halloween in Transylvania on a list of Top Ten Must-Do-Adventures. However, regarding the fact that Dracula is a fictional character created by Bram Stoker, this should not be considered a tradition in Romania. See "Day of the Dead". During this tradition people light up candles in the cemetery, on the shrines of their close relatives and loved ones who have died.[39]


Celebration of Halloween began in the 1990s, when costume and ghoulish parties spread throughout night clubs throughout Russia. Halloween is generally celebrated by younger generations and is not widely celebrated in civic society (e.g. theaters or libraries). In fact, Halloween is among the Western celebrations that the Russian government and politicians—which have grown increasingly anti-Western in the early 2010s—are trying to eliminate from public celebration.[40][41][42]


carved pumpkin, Bono, Sardinia

In the town of Gadoni on 2 November, torches made of sheafs of asphodel stems 2–4 m (7–13 ft) long, are brought through the streets of the town by the young people at dusk.[citation needed] The meaning of this ritual is to accompany the wandering souls and spirits far from the town.[citation needed] Out of the windows are put sas Concas de Mortu (Head of the deads), carved pumpkins that look like skulls, with candles inside.[43][44][45]


In Switzerland, Halloween, after first becoming popular in 1999 is on the wane. Switzerland already has a "festival overload" and even though Swiss people like to dress up for any occasion, they do prefer a traditional element, such as in the Fasnacht tradition of chasing away winter using noise and masks.

United Kingdom[edit]


See also: Mischief Night

There are certain customs associated with All Saints' Day (All Hallows Eve) and All Souls' Day. In the past, on All Souls' Eve families would stay up late, and little "soul cakes" were eaten. At the stroke of midnight, there was solemn silence among households, which had candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes and a glass of wine on the table to refresh them. The tradition of giving soul cakes that originated in Great Britain and Ireland was known as souling, often seen as the origin of modern trick or treating in North America, and souling continued in parts of England as late as the 1930s, with children going from door to door singing songs and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes or money.[46]

There has been concern about the potential for antisocial behaviour, particularly among older teenagers, on Halloween. Cases of houses being "egg-bombed" or having lit fireworks posted through the letterbox (especially when the occupants do not give money or gifts) have been reported, and the BBC reported that for Halloween 2006, police forces stepped up patrols to respond to such mischief.[47]


The name Halloween is first attested in the 16th century as a Scottish shortening of the fuller All-Hallows-Even, that is, the night before All Hallows Day.[48] All observances of Halloween made an application to the agency of evil spirits, and Dumfries poet John Mayne's 1780 poem made note of pranks at Halloween; "What fearfu' pranks ensue!", as well as the supernatural associated with the night, "Bogies" (ghosts).[49] Eminent Scottish poet Rabbie Burns was influenced by Maynes composition, and portrayed some of the customs in his poem Halloween (1785).[49] According to Burns, Halloween is "thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands".[50]

Traditional customs and lore include divination practices, ways of trying to predict the future. By the 18th century, most of the customs were methods for young people to search for their future husbands or wives. A traditional Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name.[51]

If children approached the door of a house, they were given offerings of food (Halloween being a harvest festival), which served to ward off the potential spirits that may lurk among them. The children's practice of "guising" (derived from "disguising"), going from door to door in supernatural-themed costumes for food or coins, is a traditional Halloween custom in Scotland and Ireland.[52] Among the earliest record of Guising at Halloween in Scotland is in 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money.[53]

A traditional Halloween game includes apple "dooking",[54] or "dunking" or (i.e., retrieving one from a bucket of water using only one's mouth), and attempting to eat, while blindfolded, a treacle/jam-coated scone hanging on a piece of string. In some places, apple-dunking has been replaced (because of fears of contracting saliva-borne illnesses in the water) by standing over the bowl holding a fork in one's mouth and releasing it in an attempt to skewer an apple using only gravity.

Canada and United States[edit]

Halloween is largely celebrated in the same manner in French and English-speaking Canada and the United States. In the United States, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays, Halloween did not become a holiday until the 19th century. American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays. The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Great Famine (1845–49) finally brought the holiday to the United States. Scottish emigration, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country.[52] The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street "guising" on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs.[52]

Children in Halloween costumes at High Point, Seattle, 1943

American librarian and author Ruth Edna Kelley wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the U.S; The Book of Hallowe'en (1919), and references souling in the chapter Hallowe'en in America; "All Hallowe'en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries. The taste in Hallowe'en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Robert Burns's poem Halloween as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe'en is out of fashion now".[55] The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children, teenagers, (sometimes) young adults, and parents (accompanying their children) disguise themselves in costumes and go door to door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "Trick or treat!" to solicit a gift of candy or similar items.[56] Teenagers and adults will more frequently attend Halloween-themed costume parties typically hosted by friends or themed events at nightclubs either on Halloween itself or a weekend close to the holiday. In many cases costumes targeted at adults are relatively sexual in nature, particularly for young women, with the event being used as an occasion to wear revealing clothing or costumes that are also common in sexual role-play, e.g. doctor/nurse, police officer, schoolgirl, cowboy/girl, nun, etc.

Community Halloween party in Frazier Park, California.

At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween had turned into a night of vandalism, with destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people.[57] Around 1912, the Boy Scouts, Boys Clubs, and other neighborhood organizations came together to encourage a safe celebration that would end the destruction that had become so common on this night.[58]

The commercialization of Halloween in the United States did not start until the 20th century, beginning perhaps with Halloween postcards (featuring hundreds of designs), which were most popular between 1905 and 1915.[59] Dennison Manufacturing Company (which published its first Halloween catalog in 1909) and the Beistle Company were pioneers in commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper items.[60][61] German manufacturers specialised in Halloween figurines that were exported to the United States in the period between the two World Wars.

Kids on Halloween, Woody Creek, Colorado

Halloween is now the United States' second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating; the sale of candy and costumes is also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. The National Confectioners Association (NCA) reported in 2005 that 80 percent of American adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters.[62] The NCA reported in 2005 that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.[63] According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular Halloween costume themes for adults are, in order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat, and clown.[64] Each year, popular costumes are dictated by various current events and pop culture icons. On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest 31 October hosting many costume parties.

City parades[edit]

Four contestants in the Halloween Slick Chick beauty contest in Anaheim, California, 1947

Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, hosts one of the more infamous annual Halloween celebrations. Due to the large influx of out-of-towners crowding the State Street area, riots have broken out in recent years, resulting in the use of mounted police and tear gas to disperse the crowds.[65] Likewise, Chapel Hill, NC, site of the University of North Carolina, has a notorious downtown street party which in 2007 drew a crowd estimated at 80,000 on downtown Franklin Street, in a town with a population of just 54,000. In 2008, in an effort to curb the influx of out-of-towners, mayor Kevin Foy emplaced measures to make commuting downtown more difficult on Halloween.[66]

Wilmington, North Carolina had Front Street (down town) barricaded off to allow crowds of costumed Halloween spectators and visitors to mingle in 2010. One member of the crowd started chanting "USA", and the Wilmington Police Department swiftly pepper-sprayed the unsuspecting crowd. Lt Ed Pigford of Wilmington PD is quoted as saying "we're trying to avoid injury by trying to split these crowds up as quickly as we can". With pepper spray.[67][68]

Saint Helena[edit]

In Saint Helena, Halloween is actively celebrated, largely along the American model, with ghosts, skeletons, devils, vampires, witches and the like. Imitation pumpkins are used instead of real pumpkins because the pumpkin harvesting season in Saint Helena's hemisphere is not near Halloween. Trick-or-treating is widespread. Party venues provide entertainment for adults.[69]

Contemporary references[edit]

The search engine Google has been making interactive google doodles for Halloween every year. Their 2013 Halloween doodle depicted a witch brewing a concoction in a cauldron while reading a book of spells. Their 2012 Halloween doodle depicted a series of dark haunted houses.[70][71][72]

See also[edit]


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