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Here’s How Halloween Is Celebrated Around The World

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Halloween is not always about spooks and scares as we imagine it to be. From fun, artistic costume parades to building huge bonfires and burning effigies, we've rounded up Halloween traditions from around the world

Dia De Los Muertos (Mexico)

Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a celebration of both life and death. Unlike the typical Halloween celebration we all know, this holiday is specially spent on manifesting love and respect for the dead through colourful calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons). It originated in Mexico but is now celebrated all over Latin America.

For the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, mourning the dead is disrespectful. During Dia de los Muertos, the dead are believed to return to Earth and are welcomed by revellers through wearing vibrant make-up and costumes as well as fun parades, parties, and offerings as a remembrance for the loved ones.

Guy Fawkes Day (England)

The British people might be the most adept in nurturing their grudges. Guy Fawkes Day commemorates their enduring enmity toward Guy Fawkes, a conspirator in the “gunpowder plot” to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. He was caught guarding a stash of gunpowder the evening before the attack. Fawkes, together with the other conspirators, were tried, convicted, and executed for their foiled plan. In the aftermath, the Parliament declared the 5th of November as a national day of thanksgiving.

Four hundred years later, it was still not forgotten. Also known as the Bonfire Night, many people in Britain celebrate Fawkes’ failure with fireworks, parades, elaborate costumes, and burning of effigies. Since the holiday is observed on the first week of November, revellers in the United Kingdom are increasingly combining the tradition with the Americanised Halloween with decors of witches and pumpkins. Along with “pennies for the Guy”, children also ask for trick or treat candies.

Samhain (Ireland)

Some believe that the Halloween traditions we know of today rooted from the three-day ancient Celtic tradition, Samhain, which first occurred around 2,000 years ago. The Celts lived during the Iron Age in what are now Ireland, Scotland, United Kingdom, and other parts of Northern Europe. They celebrated the end of harvesting season through games and huge feasts. Samhain, a Gaelic word that translates to “summer’s end”, marks the beginning of a new Celtic year that usually falls on October 31 and November 1 between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

It is also believed that the barrier between the earthly world and spiritual world breaks, allowing spirits to walk with the mortals. On a spiritual level, Celtic priests practiced divination rituals and conducted rites to keep ghouls at bay. The Celts also built huge bonfires and gave sacrifices for the spirits.

Kawasaki Halloween Parade (Japan)

The Kawasaki Halloween Parade is considered as the largest Halloween parade in the world with thousands of people participating to exhibit nightmares and fantasies with creativity and ingenuity. Held in Kawasaki station, the parade started in 1997 with only around 150 participants. In 2018, they reached a record of around 2,200 people joining the parade with more than 100,000 onlookers.

At the end of October, Halloween enthusiasts put on vibrant makeup and innovative fashion ensembles for the parade. In the Kawasaki Halloween Parade, spooks and scares are celebrated in a fun, artistic way.

Awuru Odo (Nigeria)

The Igbo people of Nigeria believe that the dead returns to the Earth every two years. Odo, the spirits of the dead, arrive in the form of costumed men wearing masks, sometime between September and November and depart in April. They are welcomed through the Awuru Odo Festival where families prepare ceremonies and offerings. The men are tasked to prepare the shrines and refurbish the masks in secret while the women and non-initiates prepare the feast. Before the dead depart, a performance reenacting the story of the dead is played, accompanied with obilenu music of xylophone, drums, and rattles.

Zaduski (Poland)

Zaduszki or Dzień Zaduszny is considered as one of the most important family holidays in Poland. People all over the country gather to visit the graves of their deceased loved ones and make pilgrimages. They decorate the graves with chrysanthemums, asters, and autumn flowers as well as place candles and colourful lights. Dzień Zaduszny roughly translates as “the day of prayers for the souls”. As soon as the flickering lights cast haunting shadows amid the dusk, the family members begin to say prayers for the departed souls.

Kürbisfest Im Retzer Land (Austria)

Kürbisfest is the biggest pumpkin festival held in Retz Land every October. The Retz region is especially proud of its oil pumpkins, which grow and flourish on around 500 hectares of land. The festival also serves as a Halloween celebration complete with a parade, parties, and of course, pumpkins. As the night comes, some people leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp or votive candles to honour family members and friends who have passed away.

 

This story was originally published in Singapore Tatler.