Here in the UK, we tend to celebrate Halloween on October 31st by decorating our houses, carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating. We dress our little ones up in adorable ‘spooky’ costumes and go door-to-door collecting sweets, following the rule that if there are no pumpkins outside the house, we do not knock.
We’re all familiar with this traditional way of celebrating Halloween – but what about the rest of the world? Although it’s derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals, Halloween is still widely celebrated today in a number of countries around the globe. I’ve been doing a bit of research into how some other cultures celebrate their Halloween, and I’ve compiled the information into this post. Please don’t hesitate to correct me if I have gotten something wrong – I wouldn’t want to offend anyone by sharing wrong information.
The Cambodians celebrate Pchum Ben, which is a 15-day-long religious festival paying respects to their ancestors. They start by lighting candles for their ancestors, feasting with their families and participating in buffalo races. Before the final day, monks chant through the night to signal the opening of the gates of Hell.
In the country where Halloween originated – formally the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain – the Irish celebrate Halloween in a similar way to the US. In the countryside, bonfires are lit as they would have been many years ago and the children dress up and go trick-or-treating. After this there are usually parties where they will play games like ‘snap-apple’, bobbing for apples and treasure hunts.
Mexico, Latin America & Spain
Día de los Muertos – commonly known as Day of the Dead, begins with a 3 day celebration that starts on October 31st. They use this event to honour the dead who they believe return to their homes on the last night. Families construct an altar in their homes to honour their deceased relatives and decorate it with their favourite foods and drinks, flowers, photos and often a wash basin so the spirit can wash before the feast.
Festival of the Ancestors – known as Fed Gede – is a Voodoo holiday celebrated in parts of Haiti and other Voodoo communities around the world. Activities include lighting candles, journeying to their ancestors’ burial places and drinking rum infused with chillies.
Gai Jatra – also known as the Festival of Cows – takes place during August or September. Families who have lost a relative during the year join a procession through Kathmandu leading a cow – or sometimes a young boy dressed as one. It is believed the cow will help the deceased on their journey to heaven.
Yu Lan – also called The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated throughout Hong Kong and China for a whole month, starting from the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar (August 15th-September 15th this year). Festivities include parades, operas, burning incense, food for the dead and operatic performances to entertain the spirits.
All Soul’s Day – known in Polish as Zaduszki – is celebrated on November 1st where families place lanterns, wreaths and small gifts on the graves of their relatives in a solemn celebration. It is similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead, but is less uplifting and less humour is involved.
Whilst trick-or-treating does usually take place, the children take part in “Pangangaluluwâ,” where they go door-to-door and sing songs in exchange for sweets. This takes place on All Soul’s day on November 1st.
How do you celebrate Halloween in your country? Be sure to let me know!
Until next time