It’s Halloween! Time to dress in your favorite monsters and roam around the neighborhood for some spooky scares. Even though most Americans spend their Halloween dressing up and trick-or-treating, other countries around the world have their own celebratory rituals. Below are 9 Halloween (and Halloween-like) traditions from around the globe.
Despite being the birthplace of modern Halloween festivals, Ireland has a festival called Samhain, or Samhuinn (which means “End of the light, half of the year”), that took place thousands of years ago. Today, both Ireland and Scotland people celebrate Halloween with massive bonfires, games, and traditional foods like barmbrack - a unique Irish fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, and rings for fortune-telling. For example, coin means wealth, while the ring means marriage in the next year.
Día de Muertos becomes more familiar to the rest of the world thanks to the movie Coco from Disney. In the 1st and 2nd of November, Mexico and parts of Latin America celebrate Día de los Muertos (also known as Day of the Dead) to honor their ancestors. It is believed that the Gates between Heaven and Earth open up at midnight on October 31 and the souls of children return to Earth to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. The souls of adults also come down from heaven to join in the festivities on November 2.
People dress in colorful outfits and wear unique make-up on this day
The holiday is celebrated with in-home altars full of colorful fruits, peanuts, grilled turkey, soda, hot chocolate, water, stacks of tortillas, and a special holiday bread called pan de Muerto (widely known as Bread of the Dead), which are left as offerings for weary ghosts. As for the souls of children, families leave out toys and candies, while adult souls receive cigarettes and shots of mezcal.
Every year, people from all over the world flock to celebrate Halloween at Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes’s home at Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania (even though it was not actually his castle, and there’s been a long and exhausting debate over whether he ever even visited it). There are plenty of guides and inclusive travel packages in Romania that offer tours and parties at Count Dracula’s castle for Halloween night. Ready to drink some red wine in the castle of Dracula while feeling like you’re drinking a delicious glass of blood?
For the past 21 years, at the end of every October, more than 4000 costumed Halloween enthusiasts from all around the world have gathered in Kawasaki, on the outskirts of Tokyo, for the infamous Kawasaki Halloween Parade. This is the biggest parade of its kind in Japan.
Despite being insanely famous in Japan, not everyone can simply join in the festivities. The Kawasaki Halloween Parade has very strict guidelines and standards for participating. You have to apply for entry and pay an entrance fee before the parade begins. But don’t worry, watching the parade is free, and fun to do too.
Pangangaluluwa - a tradition in the Philippines, has lots of similarities with Halloween in the States. On this day, children go door to door, dressing in their favorite characters. They then will sing and ask for prayers for those stuck in purgatory. Even though these beautiful rituals have increasingly been supplanted by trick-or-treating over the years, some towns are working their best to revive Pangangaluluwa as a way of keeping the tradition alive.
On July 15th (lunar calendar), which is around mid-August to mid-September, the people of Hong Kong celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival. In several parts of East Asia such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan, people believe that spirits get restless around this time of year and begin to roam the world. The festival is a way to “feed” these wandering spirits the food and money they need for the afterlife. It’s just a part of a larger month-long celebration that also features burning paper and food offerings for the deaths.
At the beginning of November, people from across Poland travel to cemeteries to visit the graves of their deceased family members (Dzień Zaduszny is like the equivalent of All Souls' Day for Catholics). The holiday is celebrated with lots of candles (most in white and red), flowers, and an offering of prayers for departed relatives. On the second day, people attend a requiem mass for the souls of the dead.
All Saints' Day, November 1st, is a national holiday in Italy. Widely known as Ognissanti, the festival usually begins a couple of days ahead, when people begin leaving fresh flowers - usually chrysanthemums - on the graves of departed loved ones, as well as complete strangers. This ritual turns the country's cemeteries into a beautiful display of vibrant colors. Italians also pay tribute to the departed by putting a big red candle at their window at sunset, and set a place at the table for the spirits in case they want to “visit”.
On the 1st November, many Catholics around the world celebrate All Saints' Day, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2. It’s an annual time to honor the lives of the saints who sacrificed for their Catholic beliefs, as well as the souls of dead family members. On this holiday, people go to mass and visit the graves of their loved ones.
While the event is celebrated internationally, Germany has its own tradition (and an odd but interesting one): Germans hide their kitchen knives so that spirits from the underworld won't be accidentally harmed (or use the same knives to harm the living).
How do you celebrate Halloween?
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