13 Spooky Halloween Traditions from Around the World
Halloween is just days away, and people around the nation (and around the world) are excitedly preparing their costumes, carving their pumpkins, and stocking up on sweets. But for many countries, Halloween isn't a time of trick-or-treating, scary movies, and gorging on sugary treats - for some, it's a time of mourning the dead and communicating with spirits.So grab the popcorn and join us as we discover some of the spookiest Halloween traditions from around the globe!
1. Mexico - Day of the Dead
Over Halloween and into the first two days of November, people throughout Latin America (particularly Mexico) celebrate Día de Muertos - Day of the Dead. It's believed that this is the time of year during which the Gates of Heaven are opened and the souls of the deceased return to the Earth to be reunited with their loved ones. Families traditionally prepare an altar in their home filled with food and alcohol as offerings to the spirits, while toys and lollies are left for the souls of lost children.
2. Italy - Ognissanti
All Saints' Day, a Christian festival celebrated on November 1 (the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls' Day), has a special significance in Italy, where it's known as Ognissanti. Every year, in the last few days of October and into early November, Italians flock to cemeteries to leave flowers (usually chrysanthemums) on the graves of lost loved ones and even strangers, creating beautiful fields of colour in the usually dark and depressing sites. They also leave red candles in the windows at sunset and set a place at the dinner table, hoping their dearly departed will return once more.
3. Japan - Kawasaki Halloween Parade
The country that gave us cosplay will seize any opportunity to dress up, and Halloween is no different. The holiday only began to gain popularity in the land of the rising sun about a decade ago, but it's already become one of the most fun and vibrant dates on Japan's social calendar. Celebrations include the iconic Kawasaki Halloween Parade, which has drawn thousands of participants and hoards of spectators for over 21 years, and the massive Shibuya Scramble Crossing street party, which reportedly draws in excess of one million costume-clad revellers each year!
4. Romania - Day of Dracula
What better place to spend Halloween than in spooky Transylvania at the birthplace of literature's most terrifying vampire, Dracula? Each year, people from all corners of the globe flock to Bran Castle, the purported home of Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration behind Bram Stoker's famous creation. In fact, there are even Halloween-themed tours, parties, and travel packages available for die-hard Dracula fans!
5. Czech Republic and Slovakia - Dušičky
Literally translating to "little souls", dušičky is what most Czechs and Slovaks call All Souls' Day - the annual day of remembrance for loved ones who have passed. Each year, people from these formerly united countries visit the graves of the dearly departed, leaving candles, flowers, and wreaths, creating a beautiful blanket of flickering lights across the cemeteries. They also sit around the fire, placing chairs for each member of the family, both living and deceased.
6. China - The Hungry Ghost Festival
The Hungry Ghost Festival is a celebration held on the 15th day of the seventh month (known as "Ghost Month") in the lunar calendar. It's believed that this is the time of year when spirits become restless and active, so in order to appease these ghosts, people from all throughout China to "feed" them with everything from food (duh!) and incense to parades and operas.
7. Scotland and Ireland - Samhain
Pronounced "sow-in" (the "sow" like "cow"), Samhain is a Gaelic festival celebrated all throughout Ireland and Scotland from 31 October to 1 November. It's believed that Halloween, as we know it today, evolved from this pagan tradition, which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Scots and Irishmen celebrate with bonfires, games, and traditional foods like barmbrack, a traditional Irish fruit cake which, during Halloween, turns into a fortunetelling device. Objects like a pea, a matchstick, a cloth, a coin, and a ring are all baked into the cake and carry a special meaning. If the diner gets a piece containing a pea, they will not marry that year. If they get the matchstick, they're doomed to an unhappy marriage. The cloth indicates financial struggles, while the coin signifies future wealth. If you wind up with the ring, it's time to get wedding planning - you'll be getting hitched within the year.
8. India - Pitru Paksha
Each year in the second fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada (usually September or October), millions of Indians observe Pitru Paksha, a 16-day period during which Hindus believe the souls of their ancestors (usually parents and grandparents) return to Earth. During Pitru Paksha, Hindus pay homage to generations past with offerings of food, and by performing the ritual of Shraddha. It's believed that, unless this ritual is performed, the souls of their ancestors will not be given a place in the afterlife, doomed to wander the Earth forever.
9. The Philippines - Pangangaluluwa
Think of pangangaluluwa as the Filipino take on trick-or-treating. This old tradition sees people dressing up in white sheets (representing souls) and going door-to-door, singing and asking for prayers to help those stuck in purgatory find their way to Heaven. If the homeowner failed to offer them sticky rice, ignored them or sent them away, the "souls" would run away with their slippers, livestock or eggs, or even hide the clothes they'd left outside to dry. Nowadays, kids simply don costumes and offer a song in exchange for lollies or money.
10. Germany - Allerheiligen
In Germany, US-style Halloween celebrations only began gaining popularity a couple of decades ago. Prior to that, most of their traditions stemmed from Allerheiligen (All Saints' Day) observances - one of which involves hiding all the knives in the house. This tradition, which many Germans still practice to this day, is thought to protect both the returning souls of loved ones from accidentally harming themselves, as well as the living from being harmed by evil spirits.
11. Haiti - Fet Gede
Fet Gede, also known as the Festival of the Ancestors, is an annual holiday celebrated in Haiti and other Voodoo communities around the world. Often described as Haiti's answer to the Mexican Day of the Dead, Fet Gede is a huge celebration involving music, dancing, processions, rituals, rum (yes, please) and more, all in an attempt to raise the dead. Many Haitians also travel to the burial sites of their ancestors, lighting candles and leaving offerings for Papa Gede, the corpse of the first man who ever died.
12. Cambodia - Pchum Ben
This 15-day religious festival culminates in a huge celebration on the 15th day of the 10th month in the Khmer calendar. During this period, Cambodians gather to remember and pay tribute to their ancestors (and the elderly) with offerings of food, massive feasts, temple visits, and even buffalo races. Throughout the festival, monks all over the country chant through the night without rest in preparation for the opening of the gates of hell, when the ancestors' spirits are believed to be at their most active.
13. Nigeria - Odo Festival
Celebrated by the Igbo people (an ethnic group native to southeast Nigeria) every two years between around October till April, the Odo Festival marks the period during which the spirits of the dead (known as "Odo") return to Earth to reunite with their loved ones. Each family holds a welcoming ceremony for their particular Odo group, complete with food, prayers, and gifts. But the main event is the Awuru Odo, a performance involving masked people dressed as Odo characters who reenact the Odo's return to Earth, their time with the living, and their difficult, sad return to the land of the dead.
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