Halloween, one of the world’s oldest holidays, is still celebrated today in a number of countries around the world. Although it is only one night out of the entire year, Halloween is one of the biggest holidays here in North America. People spend money on costumes, candy, and decorations, to prepare for this night. People tend not only to share their goodies, but scare each other as well. Fear has become synonymous with Halloween tradition here. But there are many countries that see it as a day of respect for the departed, not just another day to eat a ton of candy. Before the influence of the “American Halloween”, many different countries dedicated the night to the dead, and created unique traditions to do this. Here are three different culture’s celebration of this interesting holiday:
In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are put in front of photographs of family members who have departed. Bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. The custom has two purposes: as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits of the “pretas” so that they might ascend to heaven. “Pretas” are the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were therefore never buried. The presence of “pretas” among the living is thought by the Chinese to be dangerous. Under the guidance of Buddhist temples, societies are formed to carry out ceremonies for the “pretas,” which includes the lighting of lanterns. Monks are invited to recite sacred verses and offerings of fruit are presented.
The people of Austria have a unusual way of celebrating Halloween. Every year people leave water, bread and a lit lamp on their tables just before going to bed. It is believed that doing so on this particular night will welcome back dead souls to the Earth. Austrian Catholics use this time to celebrate Seleenwoche, also known as All Saints Week, between the 30th of October and the 2nd of November. During this time, masses are held and families decorate the graves of their loved ones with lanterns and wreaths. On the final day of Seleenwoche, a large requiem mass is held to remember those who have passed on.
Ireland is considered the birthplace of modern Halloween with its origins stemming from ancient Celtic and Pagan rituals and a festival called Samhuinn (end of the light half of the year), that took place thousands of years ago. Today, both 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.
Being aware of the way different cultures celebrate different holidays is so interesting! This goes for Halloween traditions, of course! Halloween is steeped in traditions. People really get into the Halloween tradition and “spirit”. Today’s Halloween celebrations are all about fun, with a generous amount of imagination. And learning about the ways Halloween is celebrated in different cultures allows us to be more imaginative! Enjoy your Halloween! 🙂