Celebrating Halloween Around The World
Do you know that Halloween – possibly America’s most favorite holiday – is celebrated in thousands of different versions all around the world? While most of us are familiar with the parties with spooky decors, people in costumes all weird, scary, and creative, there’s actually a lot more to Halloween, from its rich history to the various commemorations it depicts.
How did it start?
The Halloween tradition started in the area of Ireland, United Kingdom, and Northern France some 2,000 years back. The festival was celebrated on the first of November and was considered as the start of a new calendar year. People lit bonfires and wore costumes to shoo away ghosts and evil spirits while welcoming the new year.
This season also depicted the end of the dry season in the area. The first day of November marked the beginning of the cold season, which was often associated with death. It was believed that during the Halloween eve, October 31, the border between the worlds of the dead and the living becomes blurred. They then commemorate this night as the night where the dead re-enters the earth.
In the 8th century, November 1 was declared by the Catholic Church as All Saints Day, a day to honor all the saints. People then incorporated this declaration to the ancient Halloween tradition, lighting bonfires and wearing costumes. Later on, trick-or-treating activities and jack-o-lantern carvings were then added to the celebration.
Halloween traditions around the world
Many countries have adopted the Halloween celebration and made it more personalized with their culture. While there are different ways of commemorating Halloween, the common goal of the celebration is to honor the afterlife – from the ghosts who were believed to return to the world to the saints who died a holy life. In some Catholic countries, simply celebrate the day to remember the departed family members and friends.
Obon Festival – Japan
In Japan, Halloween is celebrated through the Obon Festival, which is believed to be the night that the dead return to where they were born. Part of the festival includes general cleaning of homes, including the pathways leading to the graves of their loved ones. Food is offered to the departed and ‘send-off’ fires are lit. This is believed to guide the spirits in returning to their graves
The festival takes place in July or August, and many entertainment activities are incorporated to end the day, including food booths, traditional dances, and the likes.
The Hungry Ghost Festival – China
China has the longest Halloween celebration, as The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated for a whole month, starting from the 7th day of the 7th in the lunar calendar.
Instead of the tradition lighting of bonfires, the Chinese burn incense and offer food for the departed. There are parades and operas, which are believed to entertain the spirits.
A chair for the spirit – Czechoslovakia
Once the bonfire is lit, chairs are placed around it on Halloween night. The chairs should accommodate all the family members, both the living and the dead. This symbolizes the inclusive tradition of Czechoslovakia, especially when it comes to family.
La Fête d’Halloween – France
It is interesting to note that Halloween was not part of France’s traditions until 1996. Unlike many Halloween celebrations, the French do not regard the holiday as a day to honor the dead. It is simply a holiday to attend a costume event and party all night. This makes the holiday in France quite controversial, as there is no exact French tradition adapted to it. However, many people still enjoy partying at restaurants, bars, and clubs on Halloween night.
Chuseok – Korea
Korea’s Halloween tradition, called Chuseok, is actually a three-day harvest festival. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar. Simply put, Chuseok is South Korea’s version of American Thanksgiving. People visit their hometowns, prepare a sumptuous feast, and pay homage to their ancestors.
Día de los Muertos – Latin America
Literally translated as the Day of the Dead, the Día de los Muertos is celebrated every year on November 1 and 2. People wear quite interesting costumes – they dress up as their ancestors, instead of the typical scary ones. They build private altars called “ofrendas” where they offer different types of gifts to their dead loved ones.
Pangangaluluwâ – Philippines
In the Philippines, people commemorate All Saints Day on November 1, and All Souls Day on November 2. Part of the tradition is to visit the departed loved ones’ graves and spend time with the family. Trick-or-treating is practiced in the country in the form of Pangangaluluwâ, where children and adults go to houses and sing songs in exchange for candies and coins.
Halloween – USA
While Halloween is widely celebrated in the United States, it is unknown to many that the tradition only came about in the 19th century when immigrants from Ireland and Scotland settled in the country.
As for their celebration, Americans commemorate the holiday through costume parties, trick-or-treating, and pumpkin carving. Many countries have already adopted and incorporated the American Halloween to their traditional celebrations. Such as dressing up in various themes, like wearing a scary makeup, sexy Halloween costumes, or even mimicking characters from the television.
What traditions do you have in your home country? Tell us in the comment section below!
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