27 Cool and Creepy Halloween Traditions From Around the World

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The Halloween traditions we’re all familiar with — including jack-o’-lanterns and dressing in costumes (to confuse wandering spirits) — came to America with Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Americans, in turn, have exported these, so that Halloween is now celebrated U.S.-style in countries all over the world. Many nations, however, have retained their own distinctive traditions, some creepy and some cool.

Halloween evolved from an old Celtic holiday, Samhain, marking the end of summer, a day on which they believed the gods or spirits would come to play tricks on mortals. Christianity adopted elements of the holiday, combining it with two existing holy days, All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), commemorating all the Christian saints, and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2), an occasion for honoring the dead. “Hallow” is an old word for saint, and Oct. 31, the eve of All Saints’ Day, was originally called All-Hallow-Even (short for evening). This evolved into “Hallowe’en,” and then Halloween.

Wherever and whatever their origins, many of the holidays and traditions observed at this time of year have similar elements: a belief that the spirits of the dead return; a need to appease or feed those spirits to prevent them from causing harm; and dressing in costumes. In more secular places, the most common element is the desire to have a good time, and parties are themed accordingly. This year, depending on where you are, you can choose from events such as the Boos and Booze event atop the National Gallery Singapore to the Crazy Sexy Cool Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

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To compile a list of cool and creepy Halloween traditions around the world, 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous online resources, including encyclopedias, history sites, travel guides, and calendars.

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