Is Your Internationally Adopted Child Familiar With Halloween?


It’s time once again to be visited by superheroes, princesses, ghouls, and goblins in search of sweet treats.  This is the Halloween that we know in the United States. While it is not celebrated in every country, many Halloween traditions developed from All Hallows Eve customs leading up to the more widely observed All Saints’ Day. If you have adopted internationally, jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating may be new to your child. Did your child observe Halloween in his or her birth country, or an alternate holiday? Here are some customs from countries where MLJ Adoptions has programs:

While Halloween has started to become popular in Bulgaria in recent years, this country has traditionally celebrated the Day of the Enlighteners on November 1. Established in 1909, this is a day to pay tribute to past and present scholars devoted to culture, science, teaching and studying. There are parades in the streets and schools are closed because it is considered a national holiday for teachers.

Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday that may be more familiar to Americans. It is celebrated October 31 through November 2 and does involve colorful costumes, but it is a feast to honor and remember family members who have passed away. Traditions include building private altars called ofrendas, taking favorite foods and drinks to the deceased’s graves, and making tissue paper decorations and sugar skulls.

Several countries celebrate Martyrs’ Day to honor soldiers who lost their lives in defense of their nation. While each country sets their own date for this holiday, Burkina Faso observes it on October 31, followed by All Saints Day on November 1.

In Haiti, Fete Gede, or Feast of the Dead, is a very important cultural celebration. In costumes, people dance in communion with their ancestors and walk in groups to the local graveyards to feed their ancestors with food, drink, and gifts brought from home. While this is similar to Day of the Dead or All Souls Day, Fete Gede involves centuries-old African traditions.

Ukraine is one of the few countries whose Halloween traditions are very much like those in the United States.  Children dress up and trick-or-treat; adults dress up as well and attend parties in the bigger cities. Stores and restaurants decorate for the holiday, with some restaurants adding Halloween-themed items to their menus.

While Samoa has not traditionally observed Halloween, businesses are beginning to promote the holiday, and citizens have begun celebrating it. They do have a traditional church holiday on the second Sunday of October called Lotu Tomaiti, which means Children’s Service or Prayer for Children. Also called White Sunday, the children and women dress in white clothing and have special activities during the church service in celebration of children. Schools are closed the next day, giving the children a day off.

Whether or not you include costumes or candy, any tradition that honor ancestors, scholars, or children is truly worth celebrating.