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How The World Celebrates Halloween

Aside from costumes and trick-or-treating, you may have your own traditions that you partake in to celebrate Halloween. See how your own compare to the Halloween (and Halloween-like) traditions celebrated around the world.

Samhain – Ireland & Scotland
Samhain, or Samhuinn (end of the light half of the year) is a festival that took place thousands of years ago and is a major influence (along with ancient Celtic and Pagan rituals) on modern Halloween. Today, Ireland and Scotland celebrate Halloween with bonfires, games, and traditional foods like barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, and rings for fortunetelling. For example, rings mean marriage while coins mean wealth in the upcoming year.

Día de los Muertos – Mexico
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated from November 1-2 in Mexico and parts of Latin America. The purpose of Día de los Muertos is to honor those who have passed away and it is believed that the Gates of Heaven open up at midnight on October 31 for the souls of children to return to Earth and be reunited with their families for 24 hours. November 2 is when the souls of adults come down from heaven to join in the festivities.

In-home altars full of fruit, peanuts, turkey, soda, hot chocolate, water, stacks of tortillas and a special holiday bread called pan de muerto (bread of the dead) are left as offerings for weary ghosts. Families also leave out toys and candy for the souls of children, while cigarettes and shots of mescal are left for the adult souls.

Day Of Dracula – Romania
Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes’ alleged home at Bran Castle In Transylvania, Romania, is a travel hot spot for Halloween. Numerous guides and travel packages in Romania that offer tours and parties at Count Dracula’s castle for Halloween.

Kawasaki Halloween Parade – Japan
Celebrated for the past 21 years, the Kawasaki Halloween Parade is a coveted event with strict guidelines and standards. Those who want to participate must apply for entry two months before the parade begins. However, this has no negative bearing on turnout, as nearly 4000 costumed individuals take part in the festive parade.

Pangangaluluwa – The Philippines
This Filipino tradition calls for children to go door to door (often in costumes) to sing and ask for prayers for those stuck in purgatory. Although traditional trick-or-treating has taken over, some towns are trying to revive Pangangaluluwa to keep the tradition alive and as a local fundraiser.

The Hungry Ghost Festival – Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, they celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month (around mid-August to mid-September). Several parts of East Asia believe that spirits get restless around this time of year and begin to roam the world. The festival is part of a larger month-long celebration and its purpose is to “feed” these wandering spirits with food and money needed for the afterlife.

Pitru Paksha – India
Many people in India celebrate Pitru Paksha, which takes places for 16 days during the second Paksha of the Hindu lunar month Bhadrapada. Hindus believe that when a person dies, Yama (the Hindu god of death) takes his or her soul to purgatory, where they’ll find their last three generations of family. During Pitru Paksha, the souls are briefly allowed to return to Earth and be with their families.

The ritual of Shraddha, which includes a fire ritual, must be performed to ensure their family’s place in the afterlife. If not, the soul will wander the Earth for eternity. During Pitru Paksha, food is offered to the dead, such as kheer (sweet rice and milk), lapsi (a sweet porridge), rice, lentils, spring beans, and pumpkins, which are cooked in silver or copper pots and served on banana leaves.

Dzień Zaduszny – Poland
Early November in Poland sees an increase in visits to the cemetery, as many are visiting the graves of family and loved ones. Dzień Zaduszny is akin to All Souls’ Day for Catholics in the country. It is celebrated with candles, flowers, and an offering of prayers for departed relatives. On the second day, people attend a requiem mass for the souls of the dead.

Awuru Odo Festival – Nigeria
This festival lasts up to six months and marks the return of deceased friends and family members back to the living. It is celebrated with feasts, music, and masks before the dead return to the spirit world. While it is an important ritual, the Awuru Odo Festival happens once every two years, when it is believed the spirits will return to Earth.

Pchum Ben – Cambodia
Buddhist families gather at the end of September to the middle of October to celebrate Pchum Ben, a religious holiday to celebrate the dead (and also the elderly). People offer foods like sweet sticky rice and beans wrapped in banana leaves, and visit temples to offer up baskets of flowers as a way to pay respect to their deceased ancestors.

Ognissanti – Italy
Ognissanti, also known as All Saints’ Day, is a national holiday in Italy. Officially on November 1, festivities usually begin a couple days prior, when people start leaving fresh flowers (usually chrysanthemums) on the graves of departed loved ones and complete strangers. Cemeteries are transformed into beautiful displays of colors. Another way they pay tribute to the departed is by placing a red candle in the window at sunset, and they set a place at the table for those spirits they hope will pay a visit.

All Saints’ Day & All Souls’ Day – Worldwide
Many Catholics around the world celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1 and 2 respectively. It is the annual time to honor the lives of the saints who died for their Catholic beliefs, as well as the souls of dead family members. In observance, people go to mass and visit the graves of their loved ones. In Germany, they have their own tradition to go along with this holiday: They hide their kitchen knives so that returning spirits won’t be harmed accidentally, nor use the knives to harm the living.

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