Halloween: Global Perspective

By James Prumos, Trending Writer

In the United States, one may believe that Halloween is a strictly American holiday. However, it is actually a holiday that is celebrated in various forms internationally, predominantly in those countries with a large Catholic population. However, each culture has their own way of celebrating the holiday.

Halloween has two main origins. The first is in the Celtic festival of Samhain, or “summer’s end”, in which the Celts would leave goods outside of their homes in order to please wandering spirits that came out that night. The second is in the Catholic celebration of “All Hallows’ Eve”, where the origins of modern-day trick-or-treating came about. The poor would arrive at homes and ask homes for “soul cakes”, which were specifically baked for the holiday, and in exchange would pray for those in that family who have passed away.

In most parts of the world, Halloween is still a way to venerate the dead, but the American version of the holiday has lost any religious or honorary significance. It now mainly serves as a way for people to dress up in crazy costumes and for children to receive large amounts of candy. This can be seen as disrespectful towards the cultures that started the original Halloween traditions.

There is also the issue of Halloween becoming more prominent in countries that do not traditionally celebrate it. For example, Russian government officials are trying to combat the growing popularity of Halloween in Russian society because it is a “western” influence. Halloween can be seen as another example of American culture overtaking native cultures in the process of globalization.

This also creates an issue for people who do not understand the holiday and in result become offended by some of the traditions. In Germany, Halloween is unpopular, because Protestant Christians traditionally considered the holiday to be “popish”, or overly-influenced by the Catholic Church. An elderly German was offended by some of the “tricks” that the youth performed as part of the festivities. When American holidays are being exported to other countries, one must keep in mind that not everyone will accept its traditions with open arms.

Halloween, like many other American holidays, can be one that brings great fun and enjoyment to many people, but the ones who are exporting these holidays need to do so with respect to the traditions of other countries. Even countries such as the United Kingdom, which the United States shares a common cultural heritage with, have very different Halloween traditions from those in the United States.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 20th print edition.

Contact James at
james.prumos@student.shu.edu

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