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Halloween Around the World
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Halloween History & Around the World

Ireland, Where it all Began

Halloween has been around for some time, and origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1, which marked for them the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the long hard winter ahead. Back then, winter was often associated with both plant and human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became hazy, so on the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. 

Now in modern-day Ireland, where Halloween originated, they celebrate much like we do in the United States. Children dress up and trick-or-treat, while adults get together and have bonfires and themed parties.  A game commonly played in "snap-apple", where an apple on a string is tied to a door frame or tree and participants try to bite or "snap" the apple. Another traditional game played is where cards are placed all facing down with candy or coins underneath. When a child chooses a card, he receives whichever prize is underneath. Bobbing for apples and treasure hunts are also commonly played at this time. 

The traditional treat of Halloween in Ireland is barnbrack, which is a type of fruit-cake.  A wrapped "treat" is actually baked inside the cake that, it is said, can foretell the eater’s future. If one finds a ring, get ready because it means the person is soon to be wed! If a piece of straw is inside, it means a prosperous year to come. Just be sure to eat carefully! 

Mexico's Dia De Los Muertos

In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, people observe a three-day long celebration that begins on the evening of October 31 and goes until November 2 called
All Souls’ Day. The celebration is designed to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes on Halloween. Many families construct an altar to the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks, and fresh water. Usually, the treats (breads, candy, foods and even decorative candles) are shaped like skulls and skeletons to celebrate those passed. 

England's Guy Fawkes Day

On the evening of November 5, bonfires are lit throughout England. Effigies are burned and fireworks are set off. Although it falls around the same time and has some similar traditions, this celebration has little to do with Halloween or the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The English, for the most part, stopped celebrating Halloween as Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation began to spread. As followers of the new religion did not believe in saints, they had no reason to celebrate the eve of All Saints’ Day. However, a new autumn ritual did emerge. Guy Fawkes Day festivities were designed to commemorate the execution of a notorious English traitor, Guy Fawkes.

On November 5, 1606, Fawkes was executed after being convicted of attempting to blow up England’s parliament building. Fawkes was a member of a Catholic group who wanted to remove the Protestant King James from power. The original Guy Fawkes Day was celebrated right after his execution. The first bonfires, which were called “bone fires,” were set up to burn effigies and symbolic “bones” of the Catholic pope. It was not until two centuries later that effigies of the pope were replaced with those of Guy Fawkes. In addition to making effigies to be burned in the fires, children in some parts of England also walk the streets carrying an effigy or “guy” and ask for “a penny for the guy,” although they keep the money for themselves. This is as close to the American practice of “trick-or-treating” as can be found in England today. Guy Fawkes Day was even celebrated by the pilgrims at the first settlement at Plymouth. However, as the young nation began to develop its own history, Guy Fawkes was celebrated less frequently and eventually died out.