Halloween is a tradition that dates back over 2,000 years, growing into one of the most popular and loved holidays celebrated all over the world. Though in the United States, most of us have only experienced the classical American ways of Halloween; trick-or-treating and telling ghost stories. There are countless ways that Halloween is celebrated around the world, from the beliefs that have formed the holiday to the traditions children and adults enjoy every year.
The roots of Halloween trace back to early 1800s Ireland, where the Celts celebrated the harvest festival of Samhain. It was celebrated on November first, the beginning of a new season and year. On this day, it was believed that the dead could communicate with the living. Costumes would be worn while crops were burned as sacrifices to Celtic deities. These beliefs still make up the basis of Halloween in Ireland today, although people tend to follow more Westernized traditions, such as children dressing up and asking their neighbors for candy.
Dia de Los Muertos is a tradition started by the ancient Aztecs, now celebrated predominantly in Mexico and throughout Latin America. Dia de Los Muertos translates to “Day of the Dead”, and the holiday holds to its name. On this day, people of Mexican heritage welcome back the souls of their deceased family members and ancestors. The celebrations include dressing up in costume, enjoying special food and drinks, and setting up an altar called an ofrenda in your house.
In China, Halloween is not a nationally recognized holiday, however, there is a similar tradition. The holiday is called Teng Chieh, and it falls on the 14th night of the 15th Lunar month on the Chinese calendar. Teng Chieh translates to “The Ghost Festival”, and the name entails some of the traditions. Monks and priests hold ceremonies to release the pain of spirits. Towns are also decorated with hundreds of floating lanterns which are released into the night sky to join the first full moon of the season.
The world is filled with so many different cultures, each with rich histories and roots that sprout fascinating traditions. Halloween is a holiday that started in one place, but took many different interpretations and forms as it spread and was shared with the rest of the world. It is not only interesting, but also important to learn about all the many cultures that our world is a home to.