As we’re getting closer to Halloween (less than two weeks!) I was wondering how other countries celebrate this spooky event, so I thought It would’ve been nice getting to know other traditions and share them on this blog so that everyone can have a little peek into another culture.
Let’s start from Europe: Italy (where I live) celebrates All Saints on November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd and here you will find different Regional traditions. From the last day of October until the 2nd of Novembr it is believed that dead people come back to meet the ones who are still living and to receive support and also to give light and hope. We place candles into empty pumpkins. In Sicily, especially in Palermo, All Saints is dedicated to children and it’s a sort of Christmas’s replica, with kids getting gifts in the morning or treasure hunting for them and, once found them, go to the cemetery to thank the dead.
In Austria some people will leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before retiring on Halloween night. The reason for this is because it was once believed such items would welcome the dead souls back to earth on a night which for the Austrians was considered to be full to the brim with strong cosmic energies, while in Germany during the Halloween night, people put away their knives, this is because they do not want to risk harm for the returning spirits.
In England children make “punkies” out of large beetroots, upon which they carved a design of their choice. Then, they would carry their “punkies” through the streets while singing the “Punkie Night Song” as they knock on doors and ask for money. In some rural areas, turnip lanterns were placed on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits who roamed on Halloween night. In Ireland, believed to be the birthplace of Halloween, the tradition is still celebrated as much as it is in the United States. In rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were in the days of the Celts and children dress up in costumes to spend the evening “trick-or-treating” in their neighborhoods. After the visiting, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At these parties, many games are played, including “snap-apple,” in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree, and players attempt to take a bite out of the suspended apple. In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts with sweets or pastries as the “treasure.” The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face-down on a table with sweets or coins beneath them. When a child selects a card, he or she receives whatever prize might be found there. A traditional food is eaten on Halloween called “barnbrack.” This is a type of fruitcake which can be baked at home or store-bought. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake which, so it is said, can foretell the future of the one who finds it. If the prize is a ring, then that person will soon be wed and a piece of straw means a prosperous year is forthcoming.
Now, let’s move on the other side of the world (if only that could be so easy in real life..): in China Halloween is really a non-event for the Chinese, however there are a couple special events that do kind of concur with Halloween – The festival of Teng Chieh, The Feast of the Hungry Ghosts, and the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, they’re all geared toward celebrating the spirits of family members who’ve passed on to the “next world”. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. Pretty similiar the Halloween celebration in Hong Kong is known as “Yue Lan” (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) and is a time when it is believed that spirits roam the world for twenty-four hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money at this time, believing these images would reach the spirit world and bring comfort to the ghosts. In Japan people celebrate the “Obon Festival” (it takes place during July and August) which is similar to Halloween festivities in that it is dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. Special foods are prepared and bright red lanterns are hung everywhere. Candles are lit and placed into lanterns which are then set afloat on rivers and seas.
Among Spanish-speaking nations (Mexico and Latin America), Halloween is known as “El Dia de los Muertos.” It is a joyous and happy holiday, a time to remember friends and family who have died. Officially commemorated on November the 2nd (All Souls’ Day), the three-day celebration actually begins on the evening of October 31st. Designed to honor the dead who are believed to return to their homes on Halloween, many families construct an altar in their home and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, fresh water and samples of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks. Frequently, a basin and towel are left out so the spirit can wash prior to indulging in the feast. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce about their dead relatives. Some of these gatherings may even include tequila and a mariachi band, although American Halloween customs are gradually taking over this celebration.
Do you have any particular tradition in your country? What’s you plan for this Halloween? Let me know in the comments section below.