October 31, 2022

How Halloween Is Celebrated Around the World


Episode Highlights

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Hirewell’s DEI Committee is dedicated to bringing awareness to issues of equity and diversity as key components of the content we create and the conversations we have amongst ourselves and others.

Join Jill Dreisilker and Megan Penalver as they discuss where Halloween began and how different countries around the world celebrate their own interpretations of the holiday.

Episode Transcript

Hello everyone. My name is Jill and we have Megan here today. We are both recruiters with Hirewell and we are part of the DEI committee. And so part of our intentions and goals for that group is to create awareness and conversations about other cultures and different ways that people celebrate things. And so today, tis the season, we’re talking about Halloween, its origins, and how it’s celebrated around the world.

I’m not going to keep this on the whole time, but I figured why not have fun? We have Megan. She’s actually- let her introduce herself. She’s traveling all around the US right now. So want to say hi, Megan? Yeah. So I am Megan, I’m a recruiter here as well and I am also a part of the DEI committee.

And yes, I am traveling. Currently I’m in Washington and I’ll be in California in just a couple weeks. Awesome. So that hints why I’m not wearing a costume. Don’t really have costumes with me right now, but it looks cute Jill.

Thanks! Doing my best. I can’t, I can’t keep this on the whole time cause I won’t be able to take myself seriously. Figured just to- we’ll just both be laughing. Yes. Yes. Okay, great. So to start off- alright, I’m going to take this off now. Ok. There you go. So yeah. So we’re just really excited to have this conversation because Megan and I both really enjoy Halloween.

I love all of the holidays, but there’s something about Halloween that just the mysteriousness and just the overall vibe I feel like with like fall and everything. It’s one of my favorite. Spooky vibes. Yes, yes. Spooky season. Spooky season. And so it was really fun to learn about Halloween and its origins and how different countries celebrate around the world.

And some that we’ve of course heard of, like Mexico is celebrating the Day of the dead. And some of the other countries, which we’ll talk about in a little bit as well. Just really cool. And it’s really cool to see how over time, over centuries, countries have incorporated their own ways of celebrating, different intentions, different things like that.

So we actually learned that the origin of Halloween actually came from the ancient Celtic Festival of it’s called Samhain. And that is where people believed that on the night before the new year, that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead kind of blurred together.

And so on October 31st, they celebrated Samhain, which is believed that the Ghost of the dead returned to earth. And so from there it kind of just as more people migrated to different countries, there are different ways that people kind of celebrated.

And then in the eighth century, Pope Gregory the third, designated November 1st as a time to honor All Saints and Martyrs. And so that became All Saints Day. And they also incorporated some of those traditions of Samhain into their celebrations. And so the evening before all Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, which eventually later

developed into Halloween. So over the time of course, that developed into different activities and everything. And with the spread of Christianity to the Celtic lands, the church eventually named November 2nd as All Souls Day to celebrate the Dead. So you can see kind of like the influence as countries developed and different religions developed that they had their own interpretations of this.

And so with that, of course, Halloween coming to America, just as different ethnic groups migrated to America, different different versions of Halloween began to emerge. So a lot of the believing like the ghosts and the dead come over to with the living, that’s where like ghost stories came about

stories of the dead, playing tricks on people to try and fool the ghosts and the dead that might be coming, dressing up in different costumes to scare them away. So it’s just cool to kind of see how all of that started and what it is today.

So with that, we thought it’d be really cool to talk about how different countries today celebrate Halloween and their versions of the holiday. Yeah. I’m going to talk a little bit about Ireland and Scotland and just some traditions that they have to celebrate. For example, Dublin hosts a Samhain parade every year, and some traditional food is mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage and sweet bread with dried fruits.

So those are very traditional in Ireland. And Scotland, they actually celebrate by having sausage. It’s a traditional Scottish Samhain food. They made it illegal back in 1735 to eat pork pastries on Halloween. And then that was repealed in the 1950s so everybody could eat sausage rolls again. Which fun fact. And they also have a festival every year in Edinburg.

Another fun fact is the Irish and Scottish use to carve turnips to honor the dead. But when they came to America, they realized pumpkins were way easier to carve. So that’s why we all carve pumpkins! And I had no idea about that, so that was actually really interesting to learn.

I know. Carving turn ups, who would’ve thought. Yeah, exactly. I thought it was always pumpkins, but the more you know, right? I know, right. Yeah. It’s cool to also hear about the different foods and how like food and everything, the different cultures come together with different traditions, so it’s cool.

Exactly. And then, so in Japan, it’s funny because when I looked up different ways that countries are celebrating, a lot of Halloween is generally for kids. But in Japan they have celebrations that are kind of- are kind of meant more for adults. Lots of cosplay, lots of parties.

They even have this Halloween event, it’s called the Kawasaki Halloween Parade. And there are thousands of people that dress up and not just dressing up like, like this, just throwing on- right. Like they go all out? Yes, they go all out. They actually have standards and participants have to apply like months in advance to join some of these.

So I would not be- I probably would not pass. I would not be allowed to go into the festival. Yeah. They would kick us out. Yeah. So I love that. I thought that that was really cool. I was like, all right, standards for dressing up and for celebrating. I thought that was really cool.

That’s hilarious. I know, I know. It’s like now I have to check- now I want to go to Japan for Halloween. That’d be awesome. And then in Italy, so I’m going to hope that I say this, Ognissanti. Or Ognissanti? Yes, Ognissanti. There I go. There we go. There you go. I did it. So in Italy, people celebrate, it’s called Ognissanti. So different festivities that they have.

So that translates to All Saints Day, which they celebrate on November 1st and 2nd. And so they hold that the tradition for that is that the souls of the deceased come back to visit their living relatives.

And so people will decorate cemeteries, they leave food out, they’ll celebrate in different ways with their families. They might even leave gifts out for their dead relatives and different things like that. So it’s cool to see how different people, how different countries celebrate, but they all kind like blend together a little bit.

Of course coming from similar origins. But yeah. Yeah. So for Mexico and Guatemala, they both observe Day of the Dead. However, in Mexico it’s a two day celebration of ancestors and deceased family members. One of the legends is on November 1st and 2nd the spirits of the dead come back to visit their families and the living celebrate the dead coming back with flowers, festivals, sweets, and images of decorated skull and skeletons.

Which, when I personally like think of the day of the dead, that’s what I think of the skulls and the skeletons. So that makes sense. Candy skulls? Yep. Yes. Yeah, they’re so pretty. Yeah. And they also have like picnics and they have candles in cemeteries. And so it’s just really a celebration of life.

Yeah. Both past and present. Yeah. Guatemala, like I said, they observed Day of the Dead. But they celebrate with a giant kite festival. To honor their dead, they build giant brightly colored kites from local natural materials and they fly them in the cemeteries. And this goes back 3000 years. That’s so cool. So they’ve been doing it quite a while. Yeah. It’s cool because when we- so the DEI, we also did a trip to the National Museum of Mexican Art, and they had a Dia de Los Muertos exhibit, which was so beautiful and so amazing.

Anyone in Chicago has a chance to go check out the museum. It’s amazing- It’s so wonderful. I’m so jealous. I really wanted to go. Yeah. And it was so cool to see just like the altars and the exhibits of the energy and just the culture and the depth that goes into some of these celebrations.

And Day of the Dead is definitely one of those. You can tell that it’s very, there’s a lot of depth to the culture and what they celebrate. And I think that it’s also really cool that- I feel like it’s almost like maybe, I don’t know, Americans that we kind of like fear death, right?

We do everything to avoid getting older and avoid death. But there’s a lot with just these different traditions especially, and I think that’s why I enjoy Halloween so much because there is that kind of crossing paths, crossing worlds and not being afraid of it.

Like welcoming it, accepting it, celebrating it. Yeah. It’s a part of life and- I don’t know if you’ve ever been Jill, but I’ve been to a couple Day of the Dead festivals myself. Awesome. And if you go, it’s just very colorful and lively. Yeah. Like they have music and it’s all upbeat. It’s not like this sad thing.

You’re not like really mourning people. I mean, you’re celebrating the lives of people. So it’s really fun. It is cool. And it’s cool to see how different countries kind of have their own interpretations of that. Yeah. Yeah. Alright, cool. So we do have some fun facts, which I thought would be

fun to share. Put your glasses back on. I know, I know. My very- there you go. Okay. So this is not surprising whatsoever. But Americans spend nearly $500 million on costumes for their pets. They spent that in 2021, which is more than double than what they spent in 2010. 500 million. And that’s just on their pets. That’s on costumes for their pets.

I know. I was like well, that makes sense. I feel like, because people- well, people love their pets, but yes. That’s a lot. I treat them like their children. I know, I know. And then another, which again, not surprising at all. One quarter of all candy sold each year in the US is purchased just for Halloween.

Yep. I like, I’m not surprised. Again, not surprised. I know people just go bonkers which is hilarious. Yeah. It’s all for the kids. Exactly. Exactly. And then the next day when Halloween is over, you go buy it on sale. There you go. There you go. One of the things that I found funny was the most Googled Halloween costume is a witch.

Nice. I think I was a witch one year. I was young. My mom actually made a really awesome witch costume. Oh, cool. Yeah. But I think that was the only time I was a witch. I’ve always just like bought my costumes. I’m lazy so I just buy them at like spirit, you know? Spirit Halloween.

Yep. Or you just throw on- I think I’ve used this costume, I can’t remember how many times, but. That’s so funny. Yeah.


So to wrap up- so Megan, do you have a favorite Halloween memory or costume? Yeah. Or like sort of tradition that you usually do? So my favorite costume was when Tiger King was all the rage.

My husband was Tiger King and then I was Carol Baskin, and it was hilarious. I love that. Like everybody, we would just walk in and everybody would just laugh. I always like to do like funny costumes. Yeah. I know some people like to go all out and stuff, but mine are just funny. I love that.

Yeah. I think one of my best, like my makeup looked the best was when I did- this is a throwback, but the Snapchat filter with thr puking rainbow. Do you- oh my gosh, yes. Yeah, I- I’m not going to lie. I did a great job. I think that was like my favorite one because everyone, I had people- that was the first and the only costume that I had random people on the streets asking to take a picture with me, so. Oh my god.

I need a picture. Pop references. Keep with the pop references. Yeah, I need a picture of that. I want to see. I’ll definitely send a picture for sure. Okay. Yeah. And then I think some of the other like fun ones, like we’ve dressed up as zombies one year. We did like a zombie bar crawl. I think probably one of my favorite ones though, is we dressed up as just like eighties, neon wigs, all of that.

That’s so much fun. And also dressed up Kevin, my three year old golden retriever. Oh my gosh. He had like- yeah, he had like sunglasses on and like a neon like hoodie. It was great. It was a lot of fun. Yep. It goes back to we spend so much money on our pets, especially for Halloween. Yes. Oh yes, most definitely.

When I got my dog like seven years ago and he was a puppy- I got him at like seven weeks old. But his first Halloween that I had him, I dressed him up as a double and it was very cute and it was like way too big for him. Like it did not fit him because he was still little, but it was great. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. Alright, cool. Well hopefully this was informative. I know we definitely, we definitely learned a lot.

I always love learning history and how things came about. So I think that this was of course tis the season, very timely. But it was definitely a lot of fun to just to learn about how different countries kind of just have their own interpretations and different versions of the holiday.

But even though, people celebrate differently, different times throughout the year, it’s still really cool just to kind of come together for one special season, one special holiday, no matter how people celebrate around the world, so. Exactly. Yeah. All right.

Well thanks for joining, Megan. It was a lot of fun. And hope everyone has a wonderful, wonderful, safe Halloween or however you celebrate. Exactly, yeah. All right. Thanks for having me, Jill. Talk to you soon, Jill. All right. Thanks, Megan.

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