Did you know that Halloween originated in Ireland? I was extremely surprised to learn that this morning as I researched for this article. As we head toward an unconventional Halloween, I thought it would be fun to research other international Halloween activities to see if any of them fit into “social distancing” safe guidelines. Turns out, there are a few. Most of these are designed for families/small groups, which aligns perfectly with the recommendation to stay within our families or small groups of friends. Here are a few fun activities from around the world.
In Ireland, families play a card game that gives the kiddos a fun surprise as they play. The cards are laid out, and there are treats like coins or candy underneath. When the kiddo picks a card, they get to keep the prize. There is a game called “Snap Apple” that is similar to bobbing for apples. An apple is tied to a string and secured to a door frame or tree, then players try to bite the hanging apple. Another big part of the Irish tradition is to create a fruitcake bread called, “Barmbrack.” The bread is filled with coins, buttons, or rings for fortune-telling. People are supposed to get an idea of what will happen in the future depending on what they get out of their bread. Lastly, families in Ireland design “treasure hunts” for kiddos with pastries or candies as the prizes.
Dia De Los Muertos is a beautiful tradition in Mexico. From midnight on Oct. 31st through November 2nd, it is believed that deceased loved ones can visit the living world during this timeframe. Participants assemble altars with food, memorabilia, etc. to offer to their loved ones who have passed away.
Starting November 1st (although the celebration usually begins a few days before), Italians start leaving fresh flowers on the graves of loved ones and the graves of complete strangers. The purpose is to fill graveyards with a ton of color and spread joy. It is also a tradition to place red candles in the windowsill to honor deceased loved ones.
Instead of carving pumpkins as we do here in the U.S.A., kiddos in Scotland carve faces into empty turnips, potatoes, and rutabagas for Halloween. Once these veggies are carved, they place candles inside.
It seems like common activities around the world for Halloween include 1) Trick-or-treating 2) Carving objects like pumpkins and other vegetables 3) Festivals and parades 4) Treasure hunts 5) Honoring loved ones who have passed away with decorations, food, and flowers.
I realize honoring loved ones and celebrating the deceased may be controversial for many families, but these traditions are important and traditional to many cultures. If you are not comfortable with this, I completely understand. But for those who would like to partake in these events, it would be great to find items like flowers and food locally. Portland Farmer’s Market is currently open, but only until November! Buying goodies for Halloween celebrations would be a great way to support local right before they close shop until next May.
Here is the link for more info: https://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/our-markets/king/.
If you’re looking for pumpkins, there are many awesome and fun local choices. Here is a link to more info: https://www.travelportland.com/region/pumpkin-patches/.
Another fun tradition that might be fun to do here in the U.S. is to do the Barmbrack bread. Either make it in your own kitchen or buy some fruit cake locally. There are many recipes online to make your own barmbrack, here is the link to one: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/162072/irish-barmbrack/.
If you want to buy fruitcake, there is an awesome looking fruitcake on the “Made in Oregon” website. Here is the link: https://madeinoregon.com/food-drink/featured-provisioners/trappist-abbey-fruitcake/trappist-abbey-monastery-fruitcake-1lb.html.
Each family will decide what feels safe for them this Halloween. There are many fun choices available! Best of luck to you all in finding a way to celebrate beloved Halloween in a way that feels comfortable to your family.
Stephanie McCoy was born and raised in Portland, Oregon-where she still lives. She recently graduated with a Master’s in Education degree from Concordia University. In her free time: she likes to read and write, get outdoors, embrace her kiddos and husband, and watch travel documentaries.