Halloween Around the World
Last weekend I took the annual trip out to the local pumpkin patch with my daughter, to pick some pumpkins that we carved into jack-o-lanterns. It got me thinking about Halloween. Of course here in the states that means trick-or-treating, lots of candy, costume parties, jack-o-lanterns and spooky movies. But I got curious about what people do in other parts of the world for this holiday, and what other countries even celebrate Halloween. Here’s what I found out.
Halloween is celebrated in North America, Canada and Ireland more than anywhere else in the world.
Ireland is believed to have been the birth place of Halloween. During the eighth century the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as ‘All Saints Day’, a day of commemoration for those Saints that did not have a specific day of remembrance. The night before became known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ which, over time, became known as Halloween.
Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out. The tradition of Jack O’Lanterns was born – the bearer being the wandering blacksmith – a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.
Today the Irish celebrate Halloween very similarly to Americans, with trick-or-treating, parties, and many also have bonfires.
In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, they celebrate “El Dia de los Muertos”, meaning Day of the Dead. Family & friends gather to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away, and build private altars honoring them. The altars are decorated with candy sculls, flowers, water and other food. This celebration occurs on Nov. 1st and 2nd.
In Belgium, many light candles on Halloween night in memory of deceased relatives.
In Austria some people leave out bread and water on a table at night, as it was once believed it would welcome dead souls back to earth.
Germans put away their knives on Halloween night, as they do not want to risk harm on the returning spirits.
In England, many of the children have recently started trick-or-treating. Although, since it is so new here, many adults, especially older generations, aren’t familiar with it and usually don’t have candy ready to hand out on Halloween.
In China the holiday is called “Teng Chieh”, the Chinese people place food & water in front of photographs of the deceased, and burn bonfires & lanterns as a way to guide the spirits as they travel back to earth on Halloween night.
In Hong Kong it is known as “Yue Lan”, the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. They believe that spirits roam the world for 24 hours.
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