Halloween Around The World

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It is Halloween time again, and Americans from all over go through the yearly rituals. The trick-or-treating, the candy, the increasingly ridiculous costumes. For college students, Halloween offers the perfect excuse for an extra party and laughable outfits. 

It seems like the quintessential American holiday, what with candy, parties and revealing costumes. But just how American is Halloween?

It turns out that Halloween is widely celebrated, not just on this continent, but the world over. And for students studying abroad this fall, Halloween can be a chance to get a unique glimpse into a multi-cultural tradition.

Halloween has a remarkable, nearly 2,000-year-old history. The first evidence of rudimentary Halloween celebrations points to the early Celtic people of Ireland, Great Britain and France holding community celebrations marking the end of summer and the harvest season.

Today, these countries continue that Halloween tradition.

Loyola Univesity of Maryland senior Kate Murphy was studying abroad in England during Halloween last year. She took note of some of the cultural differences between celebrations in the UK and the U.S.

“People dressed up and partied, but instead of being dressed slutty or something like that, everybody dresses up to scare – like zombies, dead people, vampires, or ghosts. The Brits were very confused as to why I dressed up like a Greek Goddess,” she said.

But Halloween can be celebrated all across Europe, not just in England. Go to Spain to experience the “Dia de las Brujas,” or Day of the Witches – characterized by community bonfires and many haunted houses. Or travel as far as Romania to experience the pomp and pageantry of Dracula, supposedly originating from that country. If you are feeling brave, you can even take an authentic tour of his hometown.

But a multi-cultural Halloween is not just for those studying abroad in Europe. Some form of celebrations take place nearly all over the world.

Last fall, Johns Hopkins University senior Lauren Lutz found herself studying abroad in Egypt during Halloween.

“I was actually shocked by how excited people were about Halloween. But Egyptians love parties and any opportunity to have one is taken, with relish,” she noted.

She added: “Halloween wasn’t something seen as an American thing. It was seen as more of a universal thing. Though I didn't meet anyone who could tell me what Halloween actually was or where it came from. They just know it’s a time to dress up and party. Though I don't think Egyptians have ever seen real a pumpkin.”

It turns out Halloween truly has become a global tradition. So for those currently studying abroad, take heart, Halloween is not lost. More likely than not, you will find yourself in the middle of celebrations in some form or another. Take solace in the similarities between Halloween customs abroad and in America. But also embrace the day for the new experiences it may offer. Every country finds its own unique way to celebrate, and this could be your chance to learn something new and experience a fresh perspective.


Photo: Sarah_Ackerman at flickr.com

Junior > International Studies > Johns Hopkins University

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