We all can remember Halloween as children, the orange and black paper cutouts, costumes and candies galore! But it is actually celebrated differently in other countries. For many nations around the world, this festive fun-filled day is a celebration of spirits, a time to honour the dead. We in America have turned it into a meaningless night of play, and for some, destruction.
Halloween is believed to date back to about 1745 of Christian origin when the Celtics had Harvest Festivals and Festivals of the Dead. Originally called Hallowmas, it was also known as Triduum of All Hallows, which derives as a religious observance lasting for three days. These three days of Hallowmas includes All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Soul's Day, which lasts from October 31 to November 2 every year. The dates of Hallowmas were established in the 8th Century AD.
The tradition of dressing up in costumes, going door to door dates back to the 1800s in Scotland at Halloween, where children and poor people would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes, fruit and money.
By the 1930s, people turned the occasion into chaos with vandalism and a 'ritual begging' for treats. Even today, the phrase "Trick or Treat' suggests an odious threat.
According to Wikipedia, the earliest known use of the term "trick or treat" appeared in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta, in the following article:
"Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing." (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick_or_treat writes "'Trick or Treat' Is Demand," Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta), November 4, 1927, p. 5, dateline Blackie, Alberta, Nov. 3.)
The term 'Trick or Treat' did not start in North America until the early 1950s.
In Austria, people leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before bed.
In Belgium, it is customary to light candles in memory of relatives who have passed.
In Canada, the 1800s brought the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants along with their celebrations of Halloween which includes carving jack O'Lanterns, decorating homes with pumpkins and corn stalks, and trick or treating.
In China, Halloween is called Teng Chieh where food and water are placed in front of photographs of dead family members and bondfires and lanters are lit to light the paths for spirits to travel the earth on that night. Buddhist worshippers fold boats from paper which are burned in the late hours to remember the dead and to free the spirits that are stuck on earth and guide them to heaven. Monks chant sacred verses while offerings of fruit are presented.
In Czechoslovakia, one chair is placed for each living family member by the fireside and another chair for each family member's spirit.
In England, many years ago, children made "punkies" from large beetroots and carry them through the streets singing the "Punkie Night Song" and knocked on doors asking for money. In some areas, turnip lanters were placed at gates to protect homes from evil spirits. Other customs included tossing objects into a bonfire to frighten spirits away which was also believed to tell your fortune. In modern day England, the act of "trick or treating" has become a popular tradition among the children although many of the older generation does not understand why they are being asked for candy.
In France, they do not celebrate Halloween and is regarded as an "American" holiday.
In Germany, knives are put away to prevent any harm to the returning spirits.
In Ireland, believed to be the birthplace of Halloween, it is a night of celebration for all. Bonfires are lit as they were hundreds of years ago, children dressed up in costumes to go "trick or treating" in their neighbourhoods, playing tricks on their neighbours, and parties with games such as "snap-apple", treasure hunts, and card games. The traditional "barnbrack", a type of fruitcake, is also eaten on Halloween.
In Japan, the "Obon Festival" celebrates the spirits of ancestors with special foods and bright red lanters hung everywhere. Lanters lit with candles are placed in rivers and seas. A fire is lit every night of the festival to show ancestors the way back to their families. This festival takes place during July or August and not on October 31st.
In Korea, "Chusok" is when families thank their ancestors for their prosperities with offerings of rice and fruits at their tombs. This festival takes place in the month of August.
In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, Halloween is known as "El Dia de los Muertos" considered a happy and joyous holiday to remember friends and family who have passed. It is a three day celebration beginning October 31 to November 2 (All Souls' Day). On this day, the dead are believed to return to their homes, so many families build an altar in their home, decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, water, and the favourite foods and drinks of the deceased. They burn candles and incense to help the spirits find their way home. Relatives also take this time to tidy up the gravesites. Another celebration is to parade a coffin with a live person in it through the streets collecting fruits, flowers and candies. On November 2, the family gathers at the gravesite for a picnic.
In Sweden, "Alla Helgons Dag" is celebrated from October 31 to November 6 and the eve is also celebrated with a shortened working day. The Friday prior is a short day for universities but a day off for school-age children.
However you choose to celebrate Halloween, please make it a safe one!
Sources: wikipedia, www.novareinna.com/festive/world