Halloween is just around the corner! It’s the time of year we all go shopping for freaky costumes and jack-o-lanterns. But, have you ever wondered how people from around the world celebrate this spooktacular festival? Let’s begin with a little bit of history.
Not So Original Origins
Halloween is big in the U.S. We’ve got costumes, creeps, candies – the works. But, did you know it’s a borrowed tradition? Halloween finds its roots in the 2000-year-old Celtic Festival of Samhain. Marking the beginning of the Celtic New Year, Samhain was celebrated on the 1st of November. People believed that the dead returned a night before Samhain. The Celts would leave food and wine at their door and walk around wearing masks to blend in with these ghosts.
When the Irish and Scots migrated to America, they brought along their traditions. Samhain turned into All Saints Day or All Hallows during the 8th century. The night before became All Hallows’ Eve – and later Halloween.
Sights and Frights From Around the World
People across the world honor the departed in their own unique way on Halloween. The Swedish celebrate a full week of “Alla Helgons Dag” starting October 31st. The Germans put away their knives this night, so no harm befalls returning spirits. The Czech place chairs for each living and dead family member around their fireplace. The Austrians leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table to welcome returning souls. And, Belgians light candles in memory of the departed.
Not everyone can go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Most of England stopped celebrating Halloween as Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation caught on. With no concept of Saints, there was no All Saints’ Day and no Hallows’ Eve. So most adults are caught by surprise when kids come knocking on their door for candy. On the contrary, Mexicans begin a three-day celebration on October 31st. They set up alters with flowers, food, candles and candies for their departed family members and relatives.
In Asia, the Japanese celebrate the “Obon Festival” in July or August. They light candles, place lanterns and offer special foods to their ancestors. The Koreans celebrate “Chusok” in August. They take rice and fruits to the tombs of their ancestors to show their respect and gratitude. In Hong Kong, “Yue Lan” or the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts is celebrated by burning images of fruits and money with the belief that it will reach the spirit world and provide comfort.