HALLOWEEN AROUND THE WORLD
In Austria, many people will leave bread, water and a lit lamp on their table before they go to sleep on Halloween night because it’s believed that these items welcomes dead souls back for one night; they are believed to have strong cosmic energy.
Much like English superstitions, the Belgians believe that a black cat crossing one’s path is unlucky; however, Belgians also believe that it is unlucky if a black cat enters one’s house or travels on a ship. Belgian custom states that candles should be lit to honour the memory of passed relatives.
Much like our tradition, Canadians carve pumpkins, children trick or treat, and there are parties all over the country. However, one difference to England is that Canadians decorate their homes with corn stalks.
The Halloween festival is called ‘Teng Chieh’, where food and water is placed in front of photographs of passed relatives and bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to guide the path for the spirits to travel.
In Buddhist temples, ‘boats of the law’ are made out of paper, which are burned in the evening – this is a remembrance for the dead and will free the lost spirits whose bodies were never buried. Monks recite sacred verses and fruit is offered to these lost souls.
In the Czech Republic, there is a lovely tradition where chairs are positioned next to the fireplace on Halloween night and one chair is placed for each living family member and for each family member’s spirit.
Interestingly, the French only began to acknowledge Halloween in the mid 1990’s (around about 1996) and is considered a holiday, however, it still remembers and honours any passed friends and family members.
In Germany, there is an unusual tradition that is not commonly known in England. Germans put their knives away on Halloween night in order to protect lost, returning souls and keep them from harm.
Halloween is a heavily celebrated festival in Ireland. Much like England, bonfires are lit, children trick or treat and usual party tricks are participated in, such as apple bobbing. ‘Barnbrack’ is eaten on Halloween, which is a type of fruit cake, where a muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the barnbrack which is supposed to foretell the future of the person who finds the treat. Different treats found translate as different fortunes; for example a ring represents someone who is soon to be married, and a piece of straw represents a prosperous year ahead.
The Japanese celebrate a similar festival to Halloween, known as the ‘Obon Festival’, but it is still dedicated to lost souls and passed relatives or friends. Red lanterns are hung all over, candles are lit in lanterns and then placed to float on rivers and seas. However, unlike the usual Halloween festival occurring in October, the Obon Festival takes place in July/August.
Mexico, Latin America and Spain
In Spanish speaking nations, Halloween is known as ‘El Dia de los Muertos’, known as ‘Day of the Dead’. Rather than being a morbid occasion, El Dia de los Muertos is a bright, colourful, happy holiday that celebrates friends and family members that have passed. Much like the English belief, El Dia de los Muertos believes many passed souls return to their homes on Halloween night, which is why many families create shrines and altars in honour of the deceased. On these altars/shrines, they are adorned with candles, flowers and incense.
A tradition considered highly unusual in English tradition is that a live person is placed inside a coffin, which is then paraded through the streets and passers-by throw fruit, flowers and sweets in to the coffin.
An example of a shrine: