HOW DIFFERENT COUNTRIES CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN
Boo! Trick or treat! These are just a couple of the words and phrases you're likely to hear over and over again on that holiday that children and adults alike look forward to every October 31. What are we talking about? Halloween, of course, Halloween may be one of the biggest holidays in America, but the holiday, or versions of it, has a history all over the world.
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.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how other countries celebrate Halloween and how they all differ?
Mexico: Día de los Muertos
Mexico and Spain are famous for Día de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead," which is celebrated annually on November 1 and 2. Locals dress up as their ancestors and build private altars called "ofrendas," which they use to present gifts – from sugar skulls to tequila – to the dead. The dead are believed to return to their homes on this night, so in preparation for this, altars are constructed and decorated with candy, flowers, water, photographs, and portions of the deceased’s favorite food and drink.
China: The Hungry Ghost Festival
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. 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.
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 neighborhoods trick or treating, bringing home bags of candy. Pumpkins are carved for decoration and lit with a candle. 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.
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.
Philippines: Semana Ti Ar-Aria
In the Philippines – like most countries – Halloween is more focused on the dead and celebrating their lives than what we overseas are used to. 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 about items. These items are then supposedly found in the yard the morning after.
Northern Ireland: Banks of the Foyle
Most people consider Ireland to be the birthplace of Halloween. The Irish dress up, go trick-or-treating, and attend parties. “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. Card games are also held where face-down cards are hiding either candy or money, and the participant receives whatever is under the card of their choice.
France: La Toussaint
The French don’t celebrate Halloween to honor the departed as other countries do - in fact, they didn’t really know what Halloween was until only a short while ago. 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.
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) a festival dedicated to the spirits of their ancestors. “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 the memory of the departed and are left outside overnight.
No, we dont :)
Writer - Simone Sharma
Editor - Priyam Kusundal
Graphic Designer - Jhem Picache