Halloween celebrated around the whole world but with different names but all relate to Festival of the Dead or Feast of Ancestor. It generally occurs after the harvest in August, September, October or November.
Night of the spirits; Feast of the Dead; New Year’s Eve; the year’s turning; Calends of winter; Summer’s End; one of the “joints of the year”; beginning of the barren time; day of divination; festival of the harvest; doorway into the new year; Mischief Night; Punky Night; Samhain; Nos Calan gaeaf; All Hallow’s Eve. These are all descriptions of one of the most important seasonal festivals of the Celtic world, the night of October 31, this evening, Halloween.
Many Hindus on the Indian subcontinent celebrate Pitru Paksha, meaning “fortnight of the ancestors” in Hindi. Also known as Mahalaya, the celebration lasts for 16 lunar days sometime in September or October.
In similar practices to Halloweens around the world, men give donations of food to deceased relatives.
This food includes kheer (a dessert made of rice and milk), lapsi (a wheat porridge) and pumpkin — a staple of Halloween around the world.
Many Hindus believe that after a person dies their soul is moved by Yama, the god of death, to a holding place. Three generations are in this holding place, and these souls leave the holding place to reside with their descendants on earth during this period of Pitru Paksha.
As one of the world’s oldest holidays, Halloween is still celebrated today in several countries around the globe, but it is in North America and Canada that it maintains its highest level of popularity.
Every year, 65% of Americans decorate their homes and offices for Halloween…a percentage exceeded only by Christmas. Halloween is the holiday when the most candy is sold and is second only to Christmas in terms of total sales.
Many familiar Halloween traditions around the world came about because of Oíche Shamhna (pronounced “ee-hah how-nah”), meaning “November Night” in the Gaelic language.
One night in this month, many Irish villages held autumn agricultural festivals — and believed that after dark, the dead would come back to visit the living.
We wear masks on Halloweens around the world largely because the Irish did. They hoped to calm the visiting evil spirits — or to just blend in with them!
The British celebrate All Souls’ Day on November 2. The name comes from the legend that dead souls come back to visit their former homes the night before.
Like other Halloweens around the world, children go from door to door on this evening to ask for food. They get “soul cakes” — small cakes or buns — in return for a song or a prayer.
Mexico, Latin America, and Spain
Many Mexican children celebrate Halloween traditions from around the world like trick-or-treating. Children say, “¡Noche de Brujas, Halloween!” (‘Witches’ Night, Halloween!’) and, “¡Queremos Halloween!” (We want Halloween!).
More prevalent is El Día de los Muertos, the “Day of the Dead” in Spanish. On the first day of November, families decorate altars with mementos and favorite treats of relatives that have passed away.
Unlike most nations of the world, Halloween is not celebrated by the French in order to honor the dead and departed ancestors. It is regarded as an “American” holiday in France and was virtually unknown in the country until around 1996.
In Germany, the people put away their knives on Halloween night. The reason for this is because they do not want to risk harm befalling the returning spirits.
In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. 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 Haloween night. Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion “boats of the law” from paper, some of which are very large, which are then burned in the evening hours.
Some Lebanese celebrate the Christian holiday St. Barbara’s Day, or Eid-il-Burbara in Arabic. On December 4, children wear costumes and collect food in exchange for a song, like in many versions of Halloween around the world.
Neighbors hand out burbara — a pudding made of boiled barley, sugar, raisins and pomegranate seeds.
The Japanese celebrate the “Obon Festival” (also known as “Matsuri” or “Urabon”) 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. During the “Obon Festival,” a fire is lit every night in order to show the ancestors where their families might be found. “Obon” is one of the two main occasions during the Japanese year when the dead are believed to return to their birthplaces. Memorial stones are cleaned and community dances performed. The “Obon Festival” takes place during July or August.
In Korea, the festival similar to Halloween is known as “Chusok.” It is at this time that families thank their ancestors for the fruits of their labor. The family pays respect to these ancestors by visiting their tombs and making offerings of rice and fruits. The “Chusok” festival takes place in the month of August.
In Sweden, Halloween is known as “Alla Helgons Dag” and is celebrated from October 31 until November 6. As with many other holidays, “Alla Helgons Dag” has an eve which is either celebrated or becomes a shortened working day. The Friday prior to All Saint’s Day is a short day for universities while school-age children are given a day of vacation.
Where Halloween Begins
In Ireland, where Halloween originated, the day 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 all over the country, children get dressed up in costumes and spend the evening “trick-or-treating” in their neighborhoods. After trick-or-treating, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At the parties, many games are played, including “snap-apple,” a game in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree and players attempt to bite the hanging apple. In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts, with candy or pastries as the “treasure.” The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face down on a table with candy or coins underneath them. When a child chooses a card, he receives whatever prize is found below it.
A traditional food eaten on Halloween is barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake that, it is said, can foretell the eater’s future. If a ring is found, it means that the person will soon be wed; a piece of straw means that a prosperous year is on its way. Children are also known to play tricks on their neighbors, such as “knock-a-dolly,” a prank in which children knock on the doors of their neighbors, but run away before the door is opened.