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Halloween-like Traditions Celebrated Around the World

Updated on October 21, 2014

Halloween is not only celebrated in Europe and America, but it has become a global tradition. Mexico and many Latin/Central American and Asian countries celebrate traditions and holidays very similar to Halloween. These are generally known as Day of the Dead or veneration of the dead holidays and celebrations. Not all of these celebrations and holidays fall around October/November.

Día de los Muertos decorations
Día de los Muertos decorations | Source
Día de los Muertos Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera skeletons
Día de los Muertos Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera skeletons | Source
Día de los Muertos costumes
Día de los Muertos costumes | Source
Día de los Muertos masks
Día de los Muertos masks | Source
Cambodia flag
Cambodia flag | Source

Mexico, Latin America and Día de los Muertos

Known as Día de los Muertos (Spanish for “the Day of the Dead”) this day honors deceased loved ones and ancestors. Recognized in Spain, Mexico, and much of Latin America it is part of a three day celebration that starts on October 31 and ends November 2nd (which is All Souls’ Day).

This day dates back to the time of the Aztecs. Like the Celts, this celebration is bought on by the belief that the deceased return on earth and trek back to their homes and relatives on October 31st. To welcome and honor their deceased loved ones, families build an altar for the dead, decorating it with flowers, photos, food, drinks, water, candies and other memos of the dead. The families also leave out a wash basin and towel so the ghosts can wash up before they feast on the items left on the makeshift altars.

Throughout the houses of those that celebrate Día de los Muertos, incense and candles are burned as a way for ghostly relatives to find a way back home. Families also clean and decorate the gravesites (with flowers and wreaths) of the decease loved ones. They often set up picnics and gatherings around the gravesites that can include a mariachi band and alcohol (like tequila).

Throughout Día de los Muertos festive-goers eat candies, pastries, breads and other foods shaped like skeletons and skulls. Costumes, make-up, and masks are also made in the image of skeletons and skulls.

Other specific celebrations for the dead includes a Brazil celebration called Finados (Day of the Dead) which held November 2nd. In the Philippines their Day of the Dead is called Todos Los Santos (also known as Araw ng mga Patay, Undas) which is officially celebrated November 1st and after Christmas. While Cambodia has the P'chum Ben festival celebrated for 16 days from the end of September-mid October.

Original Guy Fawkes Mask. You probably recognize this because replicas was used as V's Mask in the movie: "V for Vendetta"
Original Guy Fawkes Mask. You probably recognize this because replicas was used as V's Mask in the movie: "V for Vendetta" | Source
Seizure of Guy Fawkes by Samuel G. Goodrich,
Seizure of Guy Fawkes by Samuel G. Goodrich, | Source

England and Guy Fawkes Day

The English celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th. Though this celebration is around the same time as Halloween, Día de los Muertos and All Saints Days, it is not related to Halloween. English at this time is Protestant (and not Catholic) so they don’t believe in Saints or Celtic traditions.

Even so, this day honors the execution and death of Guy Fawkes, an English traitor. Guy Fawkes was a member of a radical and anarchist Catholic group that wanted to rid King James (Protestant) from power. A devised a plan to blow up England’s parliament building which ultimately failed. Guy Fawkes was captured and then executed on November 5th 1606.

His death was celebrated soon after with bonfires (known as bone fires) were people will burn models and symbols of the catholic pope. Two centuries later, the pope was replaced with Guy Fawkes symbols, models, and images. Creative and business savvy kids would also carry statues (known as effigies) of Guy Fawkes to sell. They will refer to it as “penny for the guy” a similar practice as the American trick or treating. There are records that show that some of the pilgrims celebrated Guy Fawkes Day when they first set up Plymouth in the New World. That eventually died out in America though.

Chinese Lantern
Chinese Lantern | Source
Hong Kong flag
Hong Kong flag | Source

Non Autumn Veneration Celebration

While many other cultures and countries have days that honor the dead that not specifically around Autumn. These are other days from around the globe that honors the dead.

China and Teng Chieh

In China, there is a festival known as Teng Chieh. Water and food are placed on front of photos of deceased family members and loved ones. All the while lanterns are lit and bonfires burn as a way to guide the spirits of loved ones as they dwell the earth on that night. Buddhist worshippers create from paper “boats of the law” that burn into the evening and night. This is meant to honor the dead and free pretas (spirits) so they can rise into heaven. Pretas are thought to be dangerous, so monks recite sacred verses, offer fruit and light lanterns as part of ceremonies to honor and respect the dead pretas. This takes place the 15th day on the Chinese new year’s.

Hong Kong and Yue Lan

In Hong Kong there is a celebration called "Yue Lan" (which translates to Festival of the Hungry Ghosts). During this time spirits dwell on earth for 24 hours. Traditions for this celebration include burning pictures of money and fruit that people believe will reach the spirit realm and provide comfort to the spirits. Not only that but food and gifts are offered and fires are lit to appease potentially vengeful and angry spirits.

Korea paper-lantern
Korea paper-lantern | Source
Flag of Cuba
Flag of Cuba | Source

Non Autumn Veneration Celebration (cont'd.)

Korea and "Chusok."

In Korea, there is a celebration very similar to Halloween called "Chusok." In this festival families pay respect and thank ancestors by making offerings of fruits and rice at tombs/gravesites. This festival is in August.

Haiti and Cuba: Santeria

While as in the Caribbean countries like Haiti and Cuba Santeria is celebrated to honor the dead and ancestors.

Other celebrations that honor the dead include Japan has Obon, (the festival of Lanterns).

Universal symbol of death: Skull
Universal symbol of death: Skull | Source

A lot of countries especially but not exclusively Western countries (such as Australia and France) and non-western countries (like Japan) celebrate Halloween modeled after and with similar traditions to Halloween celebrations in Ireland, America or Canada. Overall the dead and ancestors are seen as sacred and many cultures choose to celebrate and honor their dead.

Thanks for reading my hub. If your country/culture celebrations similar to Halloween/Day of the Dead celebrations feel free to share your traditions below!

Does your culture/country honor the dead?

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