Have A Happy Multicultural Halloween

multicultural halloween
Photo by Aotaro on Flickr

Forget the ancient Celts. Halloween as we know it is largely an American invention. Or re-imagination, as it were.

The parties, the costumes, the trick-or-treating all descend from immigrant customs – largely Scottish and Irish – that came to America and Canada in the mid-nineteenth century and had become a more widespread practice by the beginning of the twentieth. Popular media since then have further fueled the spread of the gloriously ghoulish holiday beginning with Gothic horror novels such as Dracula and Frankenstein and later, horror movies and TV shows. Trick-or-treating, or ‘guising’ as it was known in the early part of the century, started out amiably enough but became a problem in the ‘20s and ‘30s when poorly-disciplined kids and even groups like the KKK used the holiday as an excuse to engage in criminal activity.

Last year Americans spent $7 billion on the holiday, and the National Retail Federation predicts they’ll spend $8.4 billion this year.

And, as America does, so does the rest of the world. The holiday caught on in Japan around 2000 when Tokyo Disneyland held a Halloween event. The holiday – well, All Saints’ Day on November 1 – fell out of favour in England in the wake of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, which didn’t recognize saints, but has since been reinvented as Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th, and of course Halloween ties in nicely with the grisly story of Parliament’s would-be bomber.

France really only started celebrating Halloween in the 1990s and then mostly by hipsters. China adopted it through the influence of foreign teachers and ex-pats. The holiday has a spottier adoption rate in the Middle East, where it’s only recently begun to be adopted by non-Orthodox Jews in Israel, and is celebrated on December 4th in a few Arab Christian countries as the festival of Eid-al-Burbara, to commemorate the death of Saint Barbara, although jack o’ lanterns and trick-or-treating now feature prominently. In Egypt it’s only celebrated in Cairo where, guess what, a lot of Western foreigners have brought the tradition with them.

In case you’re celebrating somewhere other than North America, or you’re in Toronto where we speak 140 languages (well, no one speaks all of them!), here are a few multilingual Halloween-y phrases that might come in handy:

Snoep of je leven (Dutch)

Trick or treat.


Aftó trántagma mou édose mia odontóvourtsa antí karaméla kalampóki. (Greek)

That jerk gave me a toothbrush instead of candy corn.


Apane jeevan ke lie dauden! laash aa rahe hain! Oh, koee baat nahin, aap sirph tejee se chal sakata hai. (Hindi)

Run for your lives! The zombies are coming! Oh never mind, you can just walk fast.


No me gustan los payasos espeluznantes. Me recuerdan demasiado de nuestras opciones de elección la próxima semana. (Spanish)

I don’t like creepy clowns. They remind me too much of our election choices next week.


Ce costume est offensant pour les Vénusiens indigènes. L’ensemble du système solaire est consterné. (French)

That costume is offensive to native Venusians. The entire solar system is appalled.


Cilvēki, kas sniedz ārpus tofu bārus pelnījuši visu tualetes papīru jūs varat mest savos kokiem  (Latvian)

People who give out tofu bars deserve all the toilet paper you can throw into their trees.


Bana-bhuidsichean, chan òl agus ag itealaich. Dh’fhaodadh tu droch bhuail cuid an dòrtadh agus do dheoch! (Scottish Gaelic)

Witches, don’t drink and fly. You could hit some turbulence and spill your drink!


Jeg vet at jeg kommer til å savne henne, en morder tomat spiste min søster (Norwegian)

I know I’m going to miss her, a killer tomato ate my sister.


Happy Halloween from Yappn!

Yappn Corp is an enhanced machine translation company offering translations in 67 different languages (it’s quite a trick with patented rules and frighteningly accurate lexicons designed for your industry and business!) and we treat you to lower translation costs and a way more accurate language experience than your current translation widget. For more information please contact us at sales@yappn.com or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.


Never miss out on another Yappn blog post! We love language, translation, and the cool machine translation technology driving it. Not to mention eCommerce, Asian growth, and how we’re all learning to communicate better with each other. Sign up for our new post email notifications today!




Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn.

Share This Post