Did you know Halloween comes from a Scottish word? Well, kind of. The term "Halloween" actually derives from the Christian holiday All Saints Day, better known as All Hallows Day. This holiday celebrated the dead, as well as Christian saints and martyrs, and it was originally held in the spring. When Christians mixed with the Celts, the holiday was moved to coincide with the fall harvest and with Samhain, a Celtic festival celebrated on November 1st. They joined the holidays together, and November 1st became All Hallows Day. The night before was All Hallows Evening, and the Scottish term for eve is “even.” Overtime, this was shortened to “e’en” and the holiday became Hallow’s e’en, and it wasn’t long before we shortened into one easy word: Halloween was born.
But this isn’t just a Western holiday! Now we know the holiday originated in the British Isles, where the Celts and Christians combined, and it spread throughout Europe, over to America and became celebrated throughout the world.
United States: Here in the US, we take commercialism to a whole new level. Although the holiday began in Christian and Pagan traditions, religion is rarely associated with Halloween. For many Americans, Halloween is mainly about dressing up, scaring people, and candy. Amusement parks hold Halloween themed events all month long, and haunted houses and hayrides seem to appear out of nowhere. For children, traditions include dressing up and going door to door to ask for candy. Adults tend to dress up and throw parties, or watch scary movies while waiting for children to come to their door.
Mexico and South America: Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that was also relocated on the calendar during colonization. The Aztecs originally celebrated their dead in the summer, but was moved to the beginning of November to accompany All Saint’s Day celebrated by the Roman Catholic settlers. Day of the Dead traditions include gathering with family and friends to celebrate departed loved ones, creating ofrendas (alters) using sugar skulls and marigolds, and serving the favorite food and beverages of the deceased.
Romania: An interesting tradition in Romania is centered around the myth of Dracula, a vampire created by Bram Stoker in the horror novel by the same name. Dracula’s spirit is said to have been in Romania because of the numerous witch trials. Halloween parties occur across the region, the most famous taking place in Transylvania, where the mythical character was born.
United Kingdom and Ireland: Although the holiday originated in this area, the religious aspects seem to have dissolved in recent years. In England, as late as the 1930s, children would still go “souling” (singing and praying for the dead) in exchange for cakes and money, but the commercialized trick or treating has replaced the tradition. Today, pranks and trickery seem to be ever-present in the UK’s Halloween events, with complaints about houses being “egg-bombed,” fireworks in mailboxes, and in Ireland it is said to be the busiest day for Emergency Services.
Asia: Asia’s Halloween traditions have mainly been brought over by Americans with events and celebrations in US-based amusement parks like Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Tokyo. Costumes and parties have become increasingly popular, but trick-or-treating is difficult due to high-rise apartment buildings. Singapore and Taiwan already had a similar holiday, known as Ghost Month, where ghosts come to the island to visit their families. There are performances, banquets and parties, and the celebrations are recently being influenced by western Halloween traditions.
So, if you’re worried about your Halloween themed campaign not reaching your global audience, have no fear! It seems that this holiday is reaching all corners of the world, and even combining itself with other holidays, a great way to globalize. For all of your translation and global needs, come on over to Lionbridge onDemand.