Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Countries Celebrate Halloween?

We in the US tend to think of Halloween as an American tradition.  While it has become an increasingly popular holiday here, we cannot lay exclusive claim to it.  Many other countries celebrate Halloween or have festivities that are very similar.  The running theme through all of these however is the dead returning to earth and the honoring of our deceased loved ones. 

Ireland
This is where Halloween originated, based on the Celtic Samhain, or end of harvest celebration.  The traditions were brought to the US with Irish immigrants in the 1800's.  Today it is still a major celebration in Ireland.  They are the only country to make it a national holiday.  Schools are also closed the week after Halloween for semester break and referred to as Halloween break.  Children and adults dress up as ghosts, witches, etc.  Children go door to door to gather fruits, nuts and sweets for the celebration.  Bonfires are common also.  All very much like the old Samhain festivals.

Canada
Halloween is celebrated in much the same way as in the United States.

England
Families have a tradition on October 31st of sitting around fire together roasting nuts and eating apples.  Children make lanterns out of beets with the belief it will scare witches away.  Children do not trick or treat but instead go Soul Caking.  This is tied to an old tradition of poor children going door to door begging for food.  Now they go door to door to collect money for poor children.  They are also given cake.  The children will then say a prayer for the deceased family members of the cake donors.

Germany
Halloween has not been celebrated traditionally in Germany but has been gaining in popularity in recent years.  Trick or treating is only done in small select portions of the country.  Halloween parties with costumes has recently become popular however.

China
Here the Halloween celebration is called Teng Chieh.  Food and water are placed in front of pictures of deceased family members.  They light lanterns to guide the spirits home on the night of Teng Chieh.  The ceremony is to honor the deceased plus help guide them to heaven if they have not already gone.

Japan
Their celebration is called Obon Festival.  They honor and celebrate their deceased relatives with special foods and decorating with red lanterns.  The lanterns are lit then set afloat in rivers.

Mexico
In Mexico as well as other Spanish speaking countries such as Spain and those in South America the October 31 celebration is called El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead.  It is a 3 day celebration to honor their deceased relatives and invite them back to feast.  They decorate their homes with alters of flowers, pictures, and skulls.  They prepare large feasts which are set out for the returning dead to eat.  Sometimes the festivities take place in cemeteries as well as homes.

No comments:

Post a Comment