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As children across the United States don their scariest Halloween costumes and knock on strangers’ doors begging for candy every October 31, across the world, this spooky fall festival is also celebrated in some weird and wacky ways.
It only makes sense to start in Ireland since the Halloween tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, or All-Hallowtide. During this time, people would wear costumes and light bonfires to ward off ghosts on what was generally considered the last day of summer harvest before the cold, dark winter set in. Today, in Ireland, the tradition of Samhain continues and includes baking and eating a deliciously dense cake called a Barmbrack. Chock full of raisins, currants, and candied citrus, the Barmbrack contains three other interesting ingredients – a small rag, a ring, and a coin. Each symbol represents a different fortune for whoever finds the tokens in their piece of cake. Whoever gets the rag will have to join the priesthood. Whoever finds the coin will have a prosperous year, and whoever gets the ring in their piece of cake will marry or find happiness.
In Austria, it is customary to feed the dead on Halloween. Before going to bed, Austrians will leave out bread, water, and a lighted lamp on the table for any departed souls to feast on.
Halloween in Germany isn’t just a one-night affair – it lasts a whole week! From October 31 to November 8, Germans not only spend time visiting the graves of loved ones, but they also make sure to hide their knives to protect any spirits returning to earth during this time.
Belgians view black cats with great suspicion on Halloween since they are viewed as an omen. It is meant to be bad luck if a black cat crosses your path or enters your house on Halloween.
While many Italians celebrate the traditional Halloween as we know it in America, many also celebrate Ognissanti. Customarily celebrated on November 1 – 2, the Italian “All Saints Day” tradition believes that the souls of the deceased come back to visit their living relatives. In preparation for this, Italians will decorate cemeteries and leave food out for their departed family members.
Halloween isn’t just for children in Japan. Each year, Japanese adults don their best costumes and participate in the Kawasaki Halloween Parade. The iconic parade features around 4,000 participants who have paid and signed up months in advance to participate in the festivities.