Halloween Foods & Traditions Around the World

Photo Credit: Rachel Schlachter

Halloween, in many countries, is an honored tradition to honor the dead and avoid wayward spirits. Let’s take a peek at Halloween traditions around the world—and the tasty treats that can be found on these trick-filled nights.

Halloween is thought to have originated in Ireland. The holiday was traditionally called “All Hallowtide,” and a feast was held to commemorate the dead. The holiday was eventually called “All Hallow’s Eve,” which then transformed into Halloween. Today, children dress up in costumes and spend the evening trick-or-treating, in their neighborhoods. Afterwards, people attend parties with their neighbors and friends, during which they play games and share food. A popular treat is barnbrack cake, a fruitcake with treats baked inside. The treats act as fortune tellers, predicting things like marriage or prosperity depending on which treat is found.

In America, Halloween is celebrated by carving jack-o-lantern faces on pumpkins, wearing costumes, and children trick-or-treating for candy at their neighbor’s homes. In the 1920s-1940s, people would use Halloween as an excuse to pull pranks and vandalize property, often as a joke taken too far. The “trick-or-treat” tradition came to be as an attempt to curb vandalism. Boy Scouts promoted the idea by organizing school carnivals and safe neighborhood outings for local children. Today, Halloween is a fun way for children of all ages to dress up in costumes and enjoy some candy.

Mexico and Spain celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, or All Souls’ Day, a holiday on which families honor their deceased relatives with parades, iconic costumes, and feasts. It is believed that the souls of the dead return and walk the earth during this holiday. Families construct altars for their deceased relatives and decorate them with candy, flowers, photographs, and food. Popular treats include: Horchata, a cinnamon rice milk; and Pan de Muertos, a kind of sweet roll often decorated with crossbones; sopapillas, a light fried pastry; agua de Jamaica, a hibiscus flower water; and many more fun and unique foods and drinks.

England celebrates Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Day, by lighting bonfires and fireworks. These traditions commemorate the execution of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up England’s parliament building. Activities include burning dummies in bonfires, and children walking the streets asking for “a penny for the guy,” collecting money as a form of trick-or-treating. Popular treats for Bonfire Night include: treacle toffee, a hard candy made with sugar and molasses; Yorkshire parkin cake, a kind of gingerbread; and warm drinks, like a hot spiced wine.

How will you be celebrating the fall holidays? What are your favorite holiday foods and traditions?

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