Celebrating Halloween Around the World

By Gabriela Morales

Every year on the 31st of October, people all around the United States celebrate Halloween, the one day of the year when everyone plays dress up and has fun with any number of activities that take place on this day; such as trick-or-treating for the smaller children, haunted houses for older teens and parties for the adults. It’s a celebration of all things scary that can lurk in the dark and has served as inspiration for music, books and movies throughout popular culture for many years. But Halloween isn’t just celebrated in the USA, but all over the world. Here’s a brief look at some of the ways that other countries celebrate this holiday.

Ireland 

It is thought that Ireland’s haunted traditions originated sometime during the ancient period, and was formerly known as the Festival of Samhain, an event in which people would light bonfires and strut around wearing different types of costumes in order to scare off lingering ghosts and evil spirits. During the 8th century, Pope Gregory III announced that November 1st would be a day to honor all of the church’s saints and martyrs and would be known as All Saints’ Day in an attempt to absorb the pagan ritual into Catholicism. The night before All Saints’ Day eventually became known as ‘All Hallows’ Eve,’ but as time went on it was changed to ‘Halloween.’ Now an officially recognized holiday, Halloween is still celebrated in Ireland, but on a much smaller scale that offers children the opportunity to go trick-or-treating and parties for the adults as the main focus. However, in some areas pagan rituals are still preformed, which include prayers and/ or dancing around a bonfire.

Mexico

In Mexico, Halloween is known as El Dia De Los Muertos, a celebration dedicated to remembering and honoring our loved ones who are dead. In the U.S., however, this is a happy celebration that lasts three days (October 31st through November 2nd) in which it is believed that the undead can come back and be with their living loved ones. During these three days, families will often create altars filled with gifts for their dead, such as candies, flowers, photographs, letters, food and water. They’ll also clean their gravestones and leave gifts as well. Another tradition includes people dressing up in elaborate costumes that resemble skeletons and taking part in parades that feature music, food, dancing and other activities.

China

In China, people don't celebrate Halloween itself. Instead, they host Teng Chieh, a festival dedicated to helping the spirits as they travel from the earth and into heaven. During Teng Chieh, worshippers in Buddhists temples use paper to create Boats of the Law, which are normally a red lantern fashioned in a variety of sizes that are later burned during the night hours. The purpose of this ritual is to both remember and honor the dead, and to free the spirits of the preta, which are people who died in accidents like fires or drownings, since their bodies were never buried. The belief is that this ritual helps them ascend to heaven.   

Japan

Similar to the Chinese tradition of Teng Chieh, the Japanese don't celebrate Halloween per se; they do however celebrate the weeklong Obon Festival, which takes place in August and July, known also as Matsuri or Urabon. During this festival special foods are prepared, bright red lanterns are hung in peoples’ homes and streets, and candles are lit and set to float in rivers, lakes or other natural bodies of water. The purpose of this tradition is to help the spirits find their way to their families. It’s at this time of year that the dead are believed to return to earth. During this time, people also clean memorial stones and preform community dances to entertain and honor their ancestors.


Gabriela Morales is a Freshman Creative Writing student at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon

Posted by Josh Colfer at 8:30 AM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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