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How students celebrate Halloween around the world

How is Halloween celebrated in different countries? Read our guide to the various activities and traditions in America, Sweden, Hong Kong and more...

How Halloween is celebrated around the world - Community

Halloween is almost upon us, and it’s an opportunity for students abroad to drop the books for a night and get up to some spooky mischief!

However, did you know that Halloween is celebrated in a variety of different ways depending on where you are? Different locations will place an emphasis on different aspects of the holiday’s mythology, with a lot of different activities to take part in. So climb aboard our international ghost train as we take you on a tour of Halloween celebrations around the world; don’t scream....


The UK and the US

Both the UK and the US go Halloween-mad in the month of October (especially in the States), and the holiday is much commercialised. Retail shops will stock costumes and party paraphernalia; coffee shops will bring out special pumpkin-infused versions of their normal products; and TV channels will have whole blocks of horror films. This means that whether you want to go out or stay at home, you’ll have something to do.


Mean Girls - Halloween


For students, there will be special Halloween-themed nights at clubs and bars, complete with fitting playlists (topped off by Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ of course!). If you’re a Fashion & Textiles student, you can put your skills to good use and create an eye-catching costume. Costumes can either be traditional & scary (e.g. vampires and zombies), or a well known fictional character or figure – the more creative, the better! Costumes worn by female students can be quite risqué, though you can still go for spooky or silly if you wish. Apple-bobbing is a popular activity at house-parties, whereby individuals dunk their head in a tub of water and try to pick floating apples out with their mouth. And then there's the "trick-or-treating" though this is more common in suburban and residential areas amongst families with young children; known “tricks” include the egging of houses, and even “teepeeing” (covering buildings or landmarks in rolls of toilet paper), all of which are in the name of good fun.


Hong Kong

The blend of western and eastern influences in Hong Kong means that you need to be wary of where exactly you are when you are celebrating Halloween. Yue Lan (translated as Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) is seen as the chance to placate the souls of the dead who are believed to roam free for the day. Gifts of money are offered and pictures of fruit are burned, to please the dead so they won’t haunt everyone. However, there are more commercial celebrations to appeal to western expatriates, including events at Ocean Park and Disneyland Hong Kong.

As we know, Hong Kong is not so developed, with many living in tall apartment complexes, so trick-or-treating is not so easy to do as children cannot enter these buildings off the street. If you wish to do so, you may be limited to where you live.



Singapore is similar to Hong Kong in its celebrations, with the belief that the gates of hell open and the spirits come to revisit their loved ones. Things are a little more cultured in Singapore though, with Chinese opera and music performances taking place in public throughout the country, all of which is organised by the citizens in that area.



Similar to the US and the UK, Ireland have some activities which are limited to just that country. “Snap Apple” is similar to apple-bobbing, but consists of apples suspended on string. “Knock-a-dolly” sees kids knock on house doors, and run away before the owner answers. There’s tasty treats too as well as the naughty tricks, with a traditional fruitcake called “Barnbrack” served; this will contain a wrapped object baked within which, depending on what it is, is said to predict the future. Catering students may wish to try making it themselves.


Apple bobbing at Halloween



Halloween isn’t quite as popular in Sweden, mainly because it is so close to the celebration of Alla Helgons Dag (All Saints Day, as it is referred to elsewhere) where individuals reflect on their deceased relatives – you can understand why they might not be in the mood to dress up! Students however may be given a half day on the Friday before.



Read more:

'Living in another country: Halloween'

'"Time to be creative": Halloween'


Main image courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

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About Author

How Halloween is celebrated around the world - Community

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.

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