It’s once again the spookiest time of the year! Halloween is just two days away but preparations to celebrate this favorite holiday begin weeks, or even months before. There are many unique Halloween traditions observed around the world in addition to the popular annual traditions of trick-or-treating, jack-o-lantern carving and costume parties. Let’s take a look at some of these celebrations.
A Brief History of Halloween
The origin of Halloween can be attributed to the Celtic festival “Samhain” about 2000 years ago. Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st, which marked the end of summer. Samhain was celebrated on October 31st. They believed that on this day, the dead can walk among the living. People donned various costumes made of animal skins, leftover food and drinks on their doorsteps to prevent spirits from entering their homes. They also sacrificed crops and animals to their gods. In time, many Roman Catholic traditions were added and even replaced some of these celebrations. Today, November 1st is All Saints Day which honors saints and martyrs of the Christian religion. The day before was known as “All Hallows Eve”, which, today, is known as Halloween.
Halloween Traditions Around the World
In China, Halloween is known as “Teng Chieh”. On this day, food and water are placed in front of the photos of deceased family members and lanterns and bonfires are lit in order to illuminate the path as the dead moved around the earth. A Buddhist tradition is to create boats from paper which are then burned in the evening, as a remembrance of the dead and to free the “preta” spirits, so they can ascend to heaven.
In England, Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated on November 5th primarily by lighting large bonfires. In recent times, the popularity of this day has waned because Halloween celebrations have proven to be more popular. Children celebrate Halloween with the help of American customs such as trick-or-treating and costume wearing.
Halloween was not celebrated in France until 1996, as they believed it is an “American” holiday. Today celebrations such as costume parties are immensely popular in France. However, it remains a controversial Day in France as it is not a part of the country’s history.
People are known to put away their knives in a safe place to avoid hurting spirits or to avoid getting hurt by them.
In Ireland, in addition to trick-or-treating and costume parties, many games are played. “Snap-apple” is a game where an apple is tied to a tree or door frame and players try to bite it. Apple bobbing is also done. Treasure hunts are organized for children with candy treasures. A card game is played where a candy or coin is hidden under cards that are placed face down on a table. “Barnbrack”, a fruitcake considered to be a traditional food is prepared. But it’s not an ordinary fruitcake, because an object such as a ring or a piece of straw is hidden. A ring foretells marriage for the person who finds it while a straw forecasts a prosperous year.
Halloween is known as “El Dia de los Muertos”, or the day of the dead. Celebrations to commemorate deceased family members and friends begin on October 31st and last until November 2nd. Families create altars at home with flowers, photographs, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased. They light incense to make it easier for the spirits to find their homes.
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* Article based on www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org