Halloween is one of the oldest holidays dating all the way back to pagan times. Each year goblins, witches as well as the odd bedsheet ghost come out to haunt our streets for a few days in October. While many of us associate Halloween with dressing up in costumes and eating sweets by the bucketful, other countries celebrate Halloween In lots of different ways. We take a look at some of the different Halloween celebrations from around the world…
Halloween originated in Ireland from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain meaning “end of summer” marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Many towns and cities in Ireland celebrate Halloween but Derry, Londonderry goes all out. The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival is one of the largest Halloween celebrations in all of Europe attracting 25,000 people each year. Barnbrack, a type of fruit bread is eaten on Halloween every year. Each member of the family gets a slice. Baked within the bread is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring. If you receive the coin you can look forward to a prosperous year, if you get the ring an impending romance and if you’re unlucky and get the rag then your finances this year could be in trouble!
In China their Halloween is known as Teng Chieh (The Hungry Ghost Festival). Families perform special ceremonies to avoid the wrath of their ancestor’s ghosts. The main ceremony is held at dusk and families put out their families ancestral tablets and photographs and burn incense near them. Plates of food are put out for the ancestors, the ancestors are thought to stir from the start of hungry ghost month so families want to make sure they are well fed for the next year! Lanterns are released into the sky to help light the path so spirits can find their way back home.
Mexico have a similar festival to Halloween known as El Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The three day celebration begins on October 31st and ends on November 2nd. The holiday is a joyful and happy one, Mexican families take the time to celebrate family and friends who have died. Spirits are thought to return to their homes with families lighting candles and incense to lead the way. To welcome the spirits families make an altar decorated with sweets, flowers, photographs as well as the deceased’s favourite foods and drinks. On November 2nd families go to the graves of their loved ones and use the day to tidy and maintain them. The graves are decorated with flowers and streamers and families picnic and reminisce. Foods include batter bread, spicy meat dishes, sugar skulls and other sweet treats.
Japans Buddhist Obon festival is an event for commemorating ancestors. It is believed that during Obon spirits return to this world to visit their relatives. Lanterns are hung outside houses to guide the spirits back to their homes. Floating lanterns are also put in rivers, lakes and seas to guide the spirits back to their world so they don’t remain on this plain. Processions of 300 people dressed in ancient costumes parade through the heart of Tokyo complete with portable shrines to celebrate the dead. People also come dressed as the legendary goblin called Tengu who is believed to possess supernatural powers.
November 1st is a public holiday in Poland with people attending church in honor of the saints and those who have died. Doors and Windows are left open to welcome the spirits and visiting souls. People also visit ancestor’s graves to decorate them with wreaths and candles, a mass may also be said at the gravesite and the grave sprinkled with holy water. On November 2nd another mass is attended for all souls day to remember those who have died that are close to them. Prayers are said and candles are lit to honor their memory.