Each year on October 31st we are haunted by ghouls and goblins as we dress up in the scariest, most outlandish, or most creative costume we can think of. While here in the United States Halloween is associated with costumes and gorging on candy, Halloween is a holiday rooted in seasonal changes and the harvest, along with remembering those who have passed away by comparing their deaths to the dark winter months to come. Each culture celebrates holidays differently and Halloween is no exception.
Not only is Ireland the birthplace of Halloween but is also home to Samhain, one of the world’s biggest Halloween festivals. The festival, which has been tradition for over 2,000 years, is an ancient Celtic festival celebrated throughout rural Ireland. During the events, Halloween is celebrated with bonfires, party games, and traditional Irish food. Barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake containing coins, rings, and other objects, is surrounded by superstition. It is said that if a woman finds a ring in her barmbrack, that she will be married by the next Halloween.
In Germany, Halloween is observed from October 30th through November 8th which is also Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day). In Southern Germany, as well as other Catholic parts of the world, the holiday is spent attending church to honor Catholic saints and family members who have passed away.
China’s Teng Chieh lantern festival is similar to Halloween in that it remembers the dead. The Chinese honor their deceased family members by placing food and water in front of loved ones’ photos. Festivals are held during this celebration, which typically concludes the Chinese New Year festivities. Lanterns shaped like dragons and other animals are hung outside to protect the people from evil spirits said to haunt China.
Halloween traditions in Great Britain hardly exist at all. Since Protestantism, a religion without saints, was brought to Britain, the nation moved their Halloween celebration to November 5th. Ironically enough, the holiday has little to do with Halloween! Now known as Guy Fawkes Day, this holiday is observed throughout Great Britain with bonfires, the burning of effigies and fireworks.
Japan’s Obon Festival celebrates the memory of deceased ancestors, but is completely different from the western-style of Halloween. Lanterns are lit with candles and set afloat on the water. During the Obon Festival, the spirits of deceased loved ones allegedly return until “send-off fires” summon them back to their graves. Unlike Halloween, this holiday takes place in the summer with outdoor festivals held in its honor.
If you’re looking to explore other cultural horrors, hauntings, and Halloween celebrations check out the following articles on The Equator.
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