Few American traditions are as iconic as Halloween. Spooky pumpkins, quirky costumes, and jolly legions of trick-or-treaters take the streets every year in a charming display of monsters, candies, and frights. But, what about the rest of the world? Is it celebrated beyond US soil? Well, more or less! In fact, there are plenty of unique Halloween-esque traditions across the planet created by many cultures and peoples to appease the evil spirits their own way. So, if you happen to be enjoying an international trip just in time for Halloween, you might be in luck. Here’s 6 unorthodox international Halloween traditions that might surprise you, scare you…or both!

Eat a Fortune-Telling Piece of Barmbrack in Ireland!

Considering that Halloween has historic roots with the Celtic tradition of Samhain, it makes sense to start our journey in Ireland. Here you can taste the barmbrack, a flattened and round piece of bread filled with white grapes and raisins which is, supposedly, able to predict the future of the eater thanks to little surprises hidden inside. But how does this magic fruitcake work, exactly? Well, traditionally, every barmbrack (commonly thought to mean “speckled loaf” in Gaelic) had a an equal amount of goodies with very specific fates attached to them: if you find a pea when you take a slice, you will not get married this year…which might be a blessing compared to finding a stick that will curse you with a miserable marriage! A ring, on the other hand, is synonym of a happy marriage. If you get a cloth or rag instead, you better prepare for life a plagued with poverty or bad luck. The same can be said if you end up with a bean. But, find a coin and you’ll be blessed with endless wealth. As you can see, Irish don’t play around!

Nowadays, fortunately, you will only find a toy ring if you buy a piece barmbrack at the store, according to safety regulations. Now that’s a good future to look forward to!

Attend the Hungry Ghost Festival in China!

Sometimes referred to as “the Chinese Halloween”, the popular Hungry Ghost Festival takes place on the 15th month of the seventh month in the lunar calendar (in 2021, for example, the Ghost Month was August). But don’t let the name fool you: these wandering spirits are not (only) hungry for food…but care and affection as well! Leave that eagerness for love unchecked, and they can become nasty, evil specters. And nobody wants that. That’s why, during this month, everybody open their houses and leave a veggie meal (even saving empty spots at the table!) for the undead. It’s a time of the year where it’s believed that the deceased come to visit, and that means pacify their souls in every way possible. Burning joss paper and incense, creating impromptu altars, providing ritual offerings, crafting floating lanterns, and joining in parades are the most common activities held during this very special period of reflection and mysticism. The Hungry Ghost Festival is also celebrated in countries like Singapore and Malaysia, and it’s believed to have originated from a legend focused on Mahāmaudgalyāyana, a bright disciple of Buddha who wanted to feed her hell-imprisoned mother.

Celebrate Easter Witch in Sweden!

Witches in Easter? You bet! Every Maundy Thursday (that is, the Thursday before Easter), Swedish children dress up as little witches (or påskkärringar) and knock their neighbors’ doors in search of candy. Sounds familiar? These witches, however, look anything but scary, with cute kerchiefs around their heads and rosy cheeks painted on their faces. But how did this tradition come to be? Here comes the spooky part. According to legend, real witches liked to flee to the fabled island of Blåkulla in order to party with the Devil itself…precisely, the Thursday before Easter! Although Sweden has a pretty scary history regarding witch trials, this charming tradition survives as an interesting way to spice up a traditional Christian holiday with a hint of Halloween spirit!

Commemorate Dušičky in Czech Republic

Time to go less festive and more solemn. Like in many other European countries, in Czech Republic it’s customary to attend cemeteries on the first days of November in order to visit the tombs of your loved ones and leave them flowers and tea candles among other significant offers. But what makes dušičky a kind of unique practice is that some people even bring chairs with them in order to talk with the undead. It’s not a figure of speech. The idea is to really chat and “catch up” with the departed, closing the impassable abyss between the living and those who already left. As already mentioned, it’s not the only nation with a similar way to pay their respects to the dead. In Spain, for example, families flock the cemeteries every November 1st to observe All Saints Day.

You may also like: The Best Places to Celebrate Día de los Muertos in the US

Keep All Knives Out of Sight in Germany!

Back to morbid again! Although Germans also visit their cemeteries every November 1st, there’s another tradition that can definitely sound creepy to anyone visiting the country: to hide every knife in the household before going to bed from the ghostly apparitions that visit the mortal realm during All Saints week. But make no mistake. The whole point of this rite is, precisely, to avoid the aforementioned specters to harm themselves by accident during this ghostly transition between worlds. What else were you thinking?

Leave Some Bread with the Lights On in Austria!

We put an end to our trip by booking more cheap flights for Halloween to Europe to discover another peculiar tradition. Following the “don’t forget to feed the dead” mantra, people in Austria are known to leave a light on all night while putting out some bread. Why? To satiate the hunger of any spirit visiting from October 31st to November 8th, the only week of the year when the departed can return to the land of the living. Proof that hospitality, rest assured, goes a long way!

Do you know any other interesting or peculiar Halloween tradition? Let us know in our comments section below!

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About The Author

Content Writer

Born in Barcelona. Raised in Madrid. New Yorker at heart. When he is not geeking out at a comic book convention or binge-watching superhero shows, this bilingual journalist loves to discover secret venues and hidden places around the world to fill his insatiable wanderlust. He also digs into ghost-busting, Bigfoot-hunting, and UFO-sighting. The truth is out there.