How is it celebrated around the world?
It is easy to find the beauty that ties together all of the different Halloween
traditions around the world. It celebrates the spiritual afterlife with age-old
practices unique to their culture and religions. What unites these different
variations of the celebration of life or death?
Ireland and scotland: Samhain
The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain is the original Halloween. The origins of
most of the famous Western Halloween traditions are found here. On Samhain,
people began preparing for winter, bringing their herds back from their summer
pastures and slaughtering livestock.As summer dissolved into winter, it was
believed that the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead
dissolved as well.
So, for one night, the souls of the dead, spirits, and fairy folk could easily cross
into the physical world. To disguise themselves from evil spirits, people would
dress in costumes. Then, they’d go from house to house reciting poetry in
exchange for food. The souls of dead ancestors were honored with feasts, and
bonfires were lit to keep the darkness at bay.
Japan: Obon Festival.
The Obon festival is an annual Japanese holiday which commemorates and
remembers deceased ancestors. It is believed that their spirits return at this time
to visit their relatives.
According to the solar calendar the 7th month is July but according to the lunar
calendar, the 7th month is August. Obon is therefore celebrated at different times
in different regions depending on which calendar is observed, from 13th to 15th
of that month. On the first day of Obon, people take the chochin lanterns to the
graves of their families. They call their ancestors’ spirits back home in a ritual
called mukae-bon. In some regions, huge fires are lit at the entrances of houses
to guide the spirits to enter.
By the end of the Obon festival, families help their ancestors’ spirits return back
to the grave by guiding them with their chochin lanterns. The ritual is called
okuri-bon. Again, the ritual varies slightly between different regions of Japan and
Fet Gede: Haiti.
Fet Gede, or the Festival of the Dead, has all the verve of Halloween tradition,
but with a completely different cultural backdrop. On November 1st and 2nd,
Haitian practitioners of Voodoo, Vodouisants, pay their respects to Baron
Samedi, father of the deceased spirits. Vodouisants dance in the streets to
commune with their dead and walk through graveyards where they ‘feed’ their
ancestors with food from their own table. Fet Gede is occasionally described as
the Voodoo equivalent of Mardi Gras, because of its explosive celebratory
atmosphere, vibrant cultural traditions and commemoration of deceased family.
Día de Los Muertos: Mexico
The Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in Mexico is a culturally rich
tradition that takes place on November 1 and 2. Despite the name, the Day of the
Dead is all about celebrating life, joy and colour. Its essence is to demonstrate
love and respect for the spirits of departed family members.
Similar to other Halloween traditions around the world, Day of the Dead
celebrations include activities like dressing in bright makeup and dazzling
costumes, throwing parades, singing and dancing. However, what marks this
holiday as especially unique is the custom of making offerings to loved ones.
Families build temporary altars as a tribute to deceased ancestors. The altars are
laid with confections like sugar skulls and bottles of tequila, as well as marigolds
and photographs of the lost. It is said that these offerings will attract the spirits to
the altars to be reunited with the living family.
Which incredible tradition from around the world is your favourite? Let us know
in the comments below!