Halloween’s almost here which means kids in costumes and a lot of happy dentists. Although it’s only one night out of the entire year, Halloween is one of the biggest holidays here in North America. People spend money on costumes, candy and decorations, all in preparation of the event. The main purpose is not only to share goodies but to scare each other as well. Fear has become synonymous with Halloween tradition. People dressed as fictional, blood-thirsty creatures, haunted houses and eerie ghost stories are all common.
But there are many countries that see it as a day of respect for the departed, not just another day to please your sweet tooth. Before the influence of the ever popular American Halloween, many different countries dedicated the night to the dead, and created unique traditions to please them or aid them in passing on to the other side. Halloween is a very spiritual day in certain areas. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how other countries celebrate Halloween and how they all differ?
These are 10 ways different countries celebrate Halloween.
Instead of serving up candy every year, the people of Austria have a different way of celebrating Halloween. Every year people leave water, bread and a lit lamp on their tables just before going to bed. It is believed that doing so on this particular night will welcome back dead souls to the Earth. Austrian Catholics use this time to celebrate Seleenwoche, also known as All Saints Week, between the 30th of October and the 2nd of November. During this time, masses are held and families decorate the graves of their loved ones with lanterns and wreaths. On the final day of Seleenwoche, a large requiem mass is held to remember those who have passed on.
In China, a Halloween festival called Teng Chieh is held every year. During this time the Chinese put food and water in front of photographs of their departed relatives. There are also bonfires and lanterns that are lit in hopes of guiding spirits on a path back to Earth. Those in Buddhist temples create paper boats called “boats of the law” which are later burned in the evening. This is done for two reasons; to remember the dead and to free spirits of “pretas” so that they might ascend to heaven. “Pretas” are spirits of those who died in an accident and whose bodies were never buried. These wandering spirits are considered to be dangerous and as a result many carry out ceremonies to aid them in their journey to the afterlife.
Instead of carving pumpkins the English used to carve beetroots and called them “punkies”. “Punkies” in hand, the children then proceed to go from door to door asking for money. In some areas turnip lanterns were placed in front of homes to keep away spirits who roamed the night on Halloween. Another custom was to throw objects such as stones, chestnuts and vegetables into a large bonfire in hopes of scaring away spirits. The objects were also used as devices for fortune telling. For example, if a pebble was thrown in the fire and was no longer visible the following morning, then it was believed that the person who threw the pebble would not survive another year. Now more and more British children have adopted the American “trick or treating” tradition.
The French don’t celebrate Halloween to honor the departed like other countries do - in fact they didn’t really know what Halloween was until only a short while ago. Although they’d heard about Halloween from foreigners and American media outlets, the French didn’t start celebrating Halloween till the mid-1990s. Much like with American Halloween, people in France get dressed up in costumes and go store to store instead of home to home to get their candy. Halloween is viewed as an American holiday and for this reason many French residents do not know what exactly is being celebrated, as it is something that is considered a by-product of corporate America.
Most people consider Ireland to be the birthplace of Halloween, and it’s really not so different from the well-known American Halloween festivities. Like in the States, the Irish dress up, go trick-or-treating and attend parties. At theses parties, games are played to pass the time. “Snap-apple” is a popular game played by tying an apple to a string then hanging it on a tree or doorframe where participants then try to take a bite out of it. Treasure hunts are also arranged as well as a card game where face down cards are hiding either candy or money, and the participant receives whatever is under the card of their choice.
In Mexico Halloween is called “El Dia de los Muertos” or days of the dead. The event begins the evening of October 31st and ends on November 2nd. The day is spent by the graves of lost loved ones, picnicking and celebrating their lives. The dead are believed to return to their homes on this night, so in preparation of this, altars are constructed and decorated with candy, flowers, water, photographs and portions of the deceased’s favourite food and drink. On November 2nd families then have picnics by their loved ones' graves and tend to their final resting place by cutting weeds, repairing where necessary and even painting.
Though they know about Halloween, the Japanese do not celebrate it in the same manner as Americans do. Instead the Japanese celebrate the Obon Festival, (also known as “Matsuri or “Urabon”) a festival dedicated to the spirits of their ancestors. Red lancers are hung around the area for the festivities, and candles are then lit and placed into the lanterns which are sent to float down rivers and seas. “Welcoming fires” are lit to guide spirits back to their homes and then “send-off fires” are lit after the festivities are over with. For those in the city, small fires are lit and placed in memory of the departed, and are left outside overnight.
In the Philippines – like most countries – Halloween is more focused on the dead and celebrating their lives than what we overseas are used to. Though the influence of American Halloween is gradually starting to spread in the Philippines, the tradition of Pangangaluluwa is still being celebrated. People go from house to house and sing songs about the souls trapped in purgatory, and in exchange ask for food or money. It is said that during Halloween, loved ones manifest themselves by talking items. These items are then supposedly found in the yard the morning after.
Halloween was first celebrated in Scotland in the 16th century. At first people would try and predict the future on Halloween and by the 18th century most Halloween customs were methods by which young people would search for a spouse. Costumes were common during Scotland’s Halloweens as early as the late 19th century. Children would go door to door asking for food or money while “guising” in costumes. This is very similar to American Halloween traditions which are more of the norm in Scotland nowadays.
1 1.United States of America
American Halloween is by far the most popular and well known way of celebrating the holiday. Children dress up in costumes and go door to door in their neighbourhoods trick or treating, bringing home bags of candy. Costume parties are held where people play games, eat and drink. Pumpkins are carved for decoration and lit with a candle. These Jack-o'-lanterns have become one of the holiday’s most identifiable trademarks. Originally the term trick or treat came from the idea that kindness must be shown to dead ancestors to avoid them playing tricks on you. Now it's more of a courteous way of asking for candy.