In the United States, we celebrate Halloween by dressing up, carving jack-o-lanterns, and going trick-or-treating, but in other countries like China and Mexico they have ceremonies to honor the dead.
“This is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween” and many Americans are excited about the holiday only being a few days away as October 31st is quickly approaching on Monday. For Americans, Halloween is represented by spooky decorations, dressing up in costumes, and going door to door for candy. Although you would think Halloween is celebrated the same across the world, Halloween actually looks a lot different in other countries compared to the United States.
The news from NPR has a breakdown of how Halloween is celebrated in seven different countries compared to what Halloween typically looks like for Americans. Beginning with China, which actually celebrates its form of Halloween at the beginning of April, with the Qingming Festival. This festival, which is also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, brings Chinese people to gather around the tombs of loved ones who have passed to spend the day sweeping and cleaning the area around the tomb as a form of respect and to honor the deceased.
In England, the children still partake in the Halloween holiday but have another day that greatly overshadows the Halloween tradition with an event called Guy Fawkes Day. On November 5th the British citizens celebrate the failed assassination of King James I by the attempted assassin Guy Fawkes by gathering around bonfires and instead of trick-or-treating for candy, the children will walk around and ask for a “penny for the guy”. This is traditional as Fawkes was found with barrels of gunpowder for use in the assassination attempt prior to being sentenced to death by the authorities.
Guatemala is another country that also honors the dead during the first few days of November with a celebration called Barriletes Gigantes or the giant kites festival. These kites which can go as high as 40 feet in the air, are often hand painted or decorated and are flown over the graves of loved ones who are now deceased. The kites are meant to represent a bridge between the dead and the living.
There is no holding back on the size of the Halloween celebrations in Ireland as that is the country where Halloween began in the first place. Halloween originated from the ancient festival known as Samhain, which began more than two thousand years ago. These Irish Halloween festivals take place across the county to celebrate the traditional folklore meaning behind the Celtic Holiday and its roots.
Italy is another country that celebrates its form of Halloween at the beginning of November on the first. Italians use this day to dedicate celebration to “all saints” as a whole and the event is referred to as Ognissanti or all saints day with strong religious undertones within the meaning of the festivities. The day is celebrated by eating a meal near the graves of loved ones and by fashion lanterns, which are candles inside of pumpkins.
A country that is on board with the version of the American Halloween is Japan which has just recently jumped on board to embrace the Western traditions but with a few changes. Japan has other celebrations to honor the deceased called Obon, so trick-or-treating on Halloween is not that popular. Instead the Japanese focus on the Halloween celebration with costumes and instead of going door to door for candy, use the night to show off their costumes at parties and clubs.
Last but not least, in Mexico, children do go trick-or-treating on October 31st but the real main event takes place on November 2nd with el Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Family members cook up the deceased person’s favorite food dish to leave on their gravesite. Festivities include wearing skull masks and eating skull-shaped sweets.