One of the biggest holidays in the US, Halloween – the spookiest time of the year – has only recently captured the public consciousness at home. In 2019, we amused ourselves by exploring Halloween translation fails from across the world and the internet.
This year we have decided to ask the important questions. Is Dracula part of the Halloween celebrations in Romania – the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler? Yes, but mostly by tourists. Are pumpkins a universal element in Halloween festivities around the world? And where does the word Halloween originate? Keep reading to become a Halloween expert.
What are the origins of Halloween?
Halloween is not a new festival by any means. It certainly didn’t begin with children dressed as all manner of ghouls and monsters demanding sugar in various concoctions. Because of the long and murky history of Halloween, various theories are attempting to trace the roots of this macabre festival.
According to one theory, Halloween traditions stem from Celtic harvest festivals, in particular the Gaelic festival of Samhain, which is believed to have pagan origins. It’s possible that Samhain was adapted by the Christian church as All Hallow’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve. Some academics believe the roots of Halloween are purely Christian. A little closer to the present, the festival has been celebrated by Irish and Scottish people for centuries, who later brought it to America as an influx of immigrants moved to the US in the 19th century.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Halloween spread throughout many countries, eventually becoming the global phenomenon we recognise today.
How is Halloween celebrated in different countries?
As we revealed with our article about varying Christmas celebrations, there are many weird and wonderful ways familiar festivals are celebrated around the world. So, let’s dive in.
As mentioned, some of the earliest Halloween celebrations were in Ireland and Scotland. It’s therefore, no surprise that the Irish mark Halloween a little differently. The modern-day vision of Halloween is children dressed in all manner of frightening costumes going door-to-door, trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins with ghastly grins. But, in Ireland, it’s not only sweets which are important.
Barnbrack, a sweet bread, is a popular dessert in Ireland baked on Halloween; this traditional cake includes sultanas and raisins. A ring is often baked into the bread, with the lucky person who finds it in their slice considered to be fortunate.
Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. It has some similarities with Halloween, but also significant differences that set it apart. On the Day of the Dead, celebrated this yearon November 2nd people honour their departed friends and family because Mexicans believe that on this day spirits come to the land of the living to observe the celebrations that mark their lives.
On the Day of the Dead, there are many elaborate parades and celebrations where festival-goers paint their faces with familiar skull motifs.
Russia is an outlier on our list, notable for its aversion to the festivities. This is because many in the country are of the Russian Orthodox faith – the dominant sect of Christianity in the country. This is important because members of the Orthodox Church say that Halloween goes against their values. Indeed, some regions of the country have banned celebrating Halloween.
The version of Halloween that most westerners are familiar with is only celebrated by ex-pat communities that have grown up enjoying the festivities as children in their home countries. Like Mexico, China has a version of the Day of the Dead, with the observances stretching across several days. Known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, locals honour both “benign” and “evil” spirits.
Honouring cultural differences
The art of translation is far more than simply translating words on paper or a screen. The challenge of the translator includes the need to understand and reflect on cultural differences in a way that can be understood by a new audience. Translators often have to be intimate with the context of a particular industry or field of subject matter to reach their audience.
Our experienced team of translators are native speakers and often reside in the location and market your brand is attempting to capture. Moreover, they are trained postgraduates in the sector or discipline your business operates in too!
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