What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Is it pumpkin patches, trick-or-treating or costume parties? Most of us are probably familiar with the traditions of celebrating Halloween here in the U.S. But did you know that Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays? Even more surprising, not everyone celebrates it the same way. Here are some fun facts on how other cultures celebrate Halloween.
In Mexico, instead of dressing up in costumes and carving pumpkins, Nov. 2 brings Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. The celebration is designed to honor deceased loved ones and ancestors. It is tradition for families to build an altar in their homes and decorate it with flowers, photographs and their loved ones’ favorite foods. Candles and incense are burned to help lead their spirits back home from the other side.
In recent years, the influence of American Halloween as a celebration has become more customary, but that wasn’t always the case. On Nov. 1, people take to the cemetery to pay homage to those who have passed away. It’s not a festive day like it is in the U.S., but rather a time to go visit loved ones and leave flowers on their tombstones. Oct. 31 is becoming an occasion for young adults and children to take part in the “American celebration” of Halloween, but it isn’t a countrywide event like it is in the U.S.
Instead of Halloween parties and trick-or-treating from door-to-door, the Japanese celebrate Halloween with a festival-style street party. Costumes are often fun and light-hearted and many stores take this time to sell colorful decorations and desserts as well. Children get stamp cards and must go to designated public points to collect candy, or stamps. If they collect everything on their stamp card, they can exchange it for a small prize at the end. The Japanese also celebrate Obon in August, when their ancestral spirits return home to reunite with their family members.
On Oct. 31, aside from celebrating Halloween in the traditional “American” way, Peru also celebrates Día de la canción Criolla – Creole Song Day. The day is a celebration of Peru’s unique Criollo music, which was developed by Afro Peruvian slaves who were brought to the country in the 16th century. On this day, participants and performers dress up, sing, dance and play instruments in the festive Criollo style.
Did you know that Halloween originated in Ireland? This holiday is celebrated with the same enthusiasm as it is here in the U.S. – from going trick-or-treating to costume parties. Even so, the Irish have developed other traditions to celebrate this holiday. For example, in rural areas, residents light bonfires and eat barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake with a muslin-wrapped treat baked inside. According to tradition, the cake can tell the future of the person eating it. If you find a ring, it means a marriage proposal is coming your way; a piece of straw means that you’ve got good things to look forward to in the coming year.
On the night of Oct. 31, instead of celebrating Halloween, the Danes celebrate Allehelgensaften – All Saints Night. On this evening, a special sermon is given in all churches where the name of every local person who has passed away within the year is honored. It’s more of a religious tradition than a cultural one and it’s more of a memorial service than a celebration. Often, people light a candle for their loved ones at home or in the church to pay respects to the people they have lost.
If you’re still looking for ways to safely celebrate, check out some Halloween events happening today and through the weeknd.