As Halloween approaches, every year I realize how strange this whole trick or treating thing is. Every other day of the year, the goal is to keep kids away from strangers – but on that day it somehow becomes perfectly acceptable to dress them up and send them door-to-door to ask for candy.
If you haven’t heard the origin story, the Irish (a.k.a. whiskey) are responsible. Celtics began dressing up as evil spirits around this time of year because it was assumed the living and dead could cross paths. And, without a clever disguise, people could open pathways for demons and other spooky creatures to our world.
Apparently that sexy nurse costume has been the key to prevent a global hellscape all along. Who knew?
However, trick or treating isn’t the only weird way Halloween is celebrated around the world. Take a quick look at eight of the holiday’s strangest annual celebrations.
1. Laughing Matters
As if walking up to someone’s door and demanding candy wasn’t awkward enough, midwestern cities like St. Louis and Des Moines make trick or treaters go the extra mile for their sweet treats. Rather than a simple “trick or treat,” kids must tell a joke first. Nobody really knows when or why this tradition started – all I know is I have another reason to be happy I didn’t grow up in Missouri or Iowa.
2. Devil’s Night
On the night before Halloween, Detroit’s gangs and solo troublemakers scout the streets to find empty houses. Then, they burn them to the ground. No, really. It’s a thing. Over the last decade or so, good samaritans have countered this chaos with Angel’s Night –groups of do-gooders patrol the streets to protect neighborhoods and alert police of any suspicious activity.
3. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
In the United Kingdom, teenagers and lonely people celebrate Halloween in a creepy way. Rather than going outside and, you know, meeting people, this crowd chooses to stand in darkened rooms staring at themselves in the mirror. It’s rumored that by staring at one’s own reflection long enough, the face of the person they’ll eventually marry will appear over their shoulder. If they won’t survive long enough to see a wedding day, however, the face of a skeleton appears instead. Sounds like a pretty awkward selfie to me.
4. An Amoosing Celebration
Nepalese villages celebrate Gai Jatra – which translates to Festival of Cows. While this may sound more like a trick than a treat, people use this yearly celebration to remember all those who have recently passed. Families who’ve lost a loved one since the previous festival join a cow-lead procession through Kathmandu that is believed to help the dead find their way to heaven. Hopefully nobody gets hungry along the way…
5. Spooky, Scary Skeletons
Halloween celebrations in Bolivia are turned all the way up to 11 for the Festival of Skulls. For some reason, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep deceased family members’ skulls displayed in the home to look over and protect the surviving relatives – and during this annual celebration these skulls are decorated with flowers and offered gifts in return. Whether this actually works or not, I know I’m not messing with anybody that has a closet full of heads.
6. Ghosts Get Hungry Too
Chinese families celebrate Teng Chieh – or Feast of the Hungry Ghosts – during this time. Big bonfires and colorful lanterns guide those that have passed away home. Once a spirit finds its way back to the world, they arrive to find a fully prepared feast in front of their portrait. After all, it’s hard out there for a ghost that doesn’t get the chance to fatten up before winter.
7. That Voodoo They Do
Every year, Haiti celebrates Ghede – a voodoo-inspired festival where faces are painted to symbolize and honor the dead. Some people even visit cemeteries and grave sites of their ancestors to deliver spiced alcohol. Sounds like my kind of party.
8. Buffalocal Celebration
Pchum Ben is a Cambodian tradition that’s celebrated every year to honor the dead. Those traditions, however, are a little unorthodox – after all, this festival wouldn’t be on the list if they weren’t. A day filled with buffalo races – yes, you read that right – culminates with monks chanting throughout the night to signal the opening of Hell’s gates. Does that count as a lullaby?
What’s your favorite Halloween tradition? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to connect with us on Facebook!