Spirit of Halloween Found Worldwide
October 31, 2008 Leave a comment
by Brandi Giles
Halloween is one of our most widely celebrated holidays. The customs that people practice on this day have become apart of the national culture. People dress up, eat candy and generally do whatever they can to get horrified. Almost every country has some form of holiday similar to Halloween that is celebrated at almost the exact day and time. Here are just a few examples of similar celebrations or Halloween customs in other nations.
In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is celebrated at the beginning of November and also in the U.S. by people of Mexican heritage. During the holiday, families create altars dedicated to deceased loved ones. Because it is believed that souls are able to visit the living during these days, the altars are decorated to encourage visitation from the deceased. Photos of the loved one, sugar skulls and positive things connected with the dead relative are used to adorn the shrine. Although the purpose of the holiday is to honor the dead, these celebrations are not intended to be sad. As senior A.J. Singleton comments, “It’s not a sad or scary time…it’s happy, which, I think sounds morbid or at the least confusing to most Americans.”
Ireland is the country that originated Halloween. The Celtic belief that the souls of the dead visited the realm of the living on All Hallows Eve birthed the idea that the living should dress as ghouls on that day in order to blend in.
Thus dressing up in costumes became a custom. Treats were offered to the ghouls to placate them which is where the original idea of trick-or-treating comes from. Today, the Irish celebrate the holiday by dressing up, lighting bonfires and enjoying fireworks displays much like how we celebrate the Fourth of July.
In the United Kingdom, the British participate in Halloween festivities but also celebrate a holiday that is similar to Halloween called Mischief Night. On the fourth of November kids play tricks on adults as tradition. Some of the customary pranks include egging houses, spreading door knobs with treacle, toilet-papering houses, tying together door handles so that neither door can be opened from the outside, unhinging gates and sticking forks into neighbor’s lawns. The holiday was separate from American style Halloween celebrations when it first originated, but today the two are merged; Kids prank their elders while also going from door-to-door and asking them for sweets! Secretary to the Dean of the College Diane Pruitt who is a native of Wales comments that, “Different areas of Britain celebrate in different ways. Mischief Night is more prevalent in the north of England and Scotland. But my nieces and nephews have adopted the American custom and they dress up and trick or treat on the 31st.”
In Asia, Halloween has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. Several Asian nations celebrate the holiday in the American tradition. They view Halloween as a day of fun and revelry. The Chinese also celebrate the holiday in the western tradition of costumes and parties, but they have a ceremony much earlier in the Fall where they observe traditions that honor the dead. The Yue Fan festival is celebrated every year for one month from Aug. to Sept. During the festival also known as Hungry Ghosts Night, Chinese citizens visit temples to honor their dead relatives with fruit and other sweets. The Japanese like to experience Halloween in the American tradition, the holiday being the most popular Western holiday the nation celebrates. But they also have their own ceremonial holidays where they honor their deceased loved ones. One festival that is celebrated every year in Japan is the Bon festival. It is a Buddhist event where citizens reflect on the souls of their ancestors. Politics and Society of Japan professor Dr. Sakah Mamud explains, “The festival serves as a family re-union, family members return to their ancestral homes to remember the ancestors of the family. The ceremonies and festivals vary from region to region where each region has its own form of Bon dance accompanied by its local folk song.”