Happy Halloween! How Other Cultures Celebrate the Holiday
Halloween festivities can be traced back about 2,000 years to ancient Celtic Pagan rituals, and have become increasingly varied and widespread in the millennia since. Around the world, celebrations of Halloween continue to celebrate elements of the supernatural elements — honoring death and the departed through storytelling, music, and more. The modern Halloween has also taken on a life of its own across various cultures, incorporating elements such as costumes, candy, and even tequila.
Read on to learn about how 6 major cultures around the world celebrate the holiday.
Given the fact that Halloween’s roots are so firmly embedded in Celtic culture, it’s no surprise that this country continues to embrace the holiday. Similarly to the United States, Irish celebrators dress up in haunting costumes, carve pumpkins (or turnips, according to Irish custom), and hold parades and carnivals in honor of the day. Bonfires and fireworks are also common in Irish Halloween celebrations — possibly as a throwback to the ancient Pagan customs, reports LiveScience.
No nation better celebrates the dead than Mexico: Each year from October 31 to November 2, this country becomes an all-out festival honoring the deceased. The occasion is rooted in the Catholic traditions of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2) — dates honoring the saints, martyrs, and lives of all departed souls, respectively.
However, Día de Los Muertos is just as much as a celebration of life as it is a tribute to death. Festivities involve Mexican families recounting stories of lost loved ones, presenting ofrendas (offerings) to the deceased, telling stories, and generally celebrating life. Feasts, skull-shaped sweets and breads, tequila, music, skeleton costumes, and parades are all part of the lively tribute to this nation’s ancestors.
In a sharp contrast to Ireland’s ancient Halloween ties, French citizens didn’t take to Halloween until much more recently — in part due to their resistance to rampant Americanization. However, since 1982 — when a Parisian restaurant called the American Dream began celebrating this holiday — Halloween has gained populairty in the nation. As locals became increasingly familiar with the concept, Halloween took hold in Paris and beyond. It wasn’t until the 1990s that France officially adopted Halloween as a holiday — making it one of the first continental European countries to do so.
The French city of Limoges goes all-out in its annual celebrations: Since 1996, the town has hosted an elaborate parade of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls.
4. The Philippines
Filipinos also honor the deceased at this time of year with distinct Day of the Dead celebrations. Being Asia’s largest Catholic nation, the Philippines base their traditions in All Saints’ Day (November 1). During this time, families honor their loved ones who have passed by placing elaborate candle-lit tributes upon tombstones and crypts. On the Day of the Dead, cemeteries transform from places of quiet grieving to parties with food and music in honor of lost loved one. The holiday represents a time of both gaiety and spiritual reflection, marked by the closing of offices and schools.
Germany celebrates Halloween over an extended period lasting from October 30 to November 8. The holiday, as celebrated in Germany, originated as a religious extension of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1 and November 2, respectively). The focus shifted in the 1990s, as the nation’s toymakers were seeking a way to increase demand for their products. This culminated in a public relations campaign that refocused Germany’s celebrations towards candy, toys, and pumpkins. As of 2008, the country’s Halloween industry was worth about $200 million. Nowadays, German children can be found each year going door-to-door saying “sweet or sour,” the German version of “trick or treat.”
Although Japan’s Bon Festival (or Obon) — being based roughly on the lunar calendar — does not coincide with Halloween by date, the eastern and western celebrations are steeped in similar lore. Obon celebrants believe that the spirits of their ancestors return to the material world every August during this festival. Celebrators perform dances and hang lanterns in front of their homes as a guiding beacon for wandering spirits. Deferential are made to the dead at homes, cemeteries, and temples.