One of the best things about being married to a man who flies around the entire world every year is I get to learn so much about different cultures. Countries all over the globe celebrate Halloween and each community celebrates this fun holiday with their own unique traditions. Learning about these traditions with your children can help them connect with different cultures and helps you come up with new ways to celebrate Halloween as a family. Here are seven unique Halloween traditions from all over the planet:
Celebrated mostly in Hong Kong and surrounding cities, China’s Halloween is a month-long celebration that begins on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. This year, the Zhongyuan Festival, also called the Hungry Ghost Festival, started on September 7th. The festival is celebrated to remember the ancestors who past and to honor them with ceremonies and feasts. Some of the traditions include preparing food and paper mache offerings for the ghosts, burning incense and joss paper in memory, and releasing paper boats and lanterns to help ghosts find their way home.
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated all across Latin America. It’s a three-day celebration that starts on October 31st and ends November 2nd. Celebrations are a mix of reverence for lost family members and spooky fun. Traditions include building altars with food, marigolds, and calavaras, elaborately painted skulls, and gifting them to grave sites. Other traditions include painting calavaras on faces, giving small toys to children, and eating decorated sweets in shapes of skulls and bones.
Ireland is where Halloween was born and the holiday started with the Celtic holiday Samhain. Samhain is celebrated across the United Kingdom and has been around for thousands of years. Traditional celebrations include large bonfires, games like bobbing for apples and having feasts of traditional food. At the feast, a plate is set and a chair left empty for any ghosts who want to stop by and join your dinner. They also eat barmback, a cake that is filled with coins and rings. If you get a lucky coin it means you will have a wealthy year if you get a ring, it means you’ll get married.
Chuseok, or Autumn Eve, is a three-day holiday celebrated on the 8th day of the lunar calendar. This year Chuseok starts on September 23rd and ends on September 25th. During the celebration, Koreans prepare large feasts, hold a memorial for their ancestors where they make special foods, and give each other gifts. They also play a variety of folk games like chicken fight where you try to fight like chickens, Juldagiri a game similar to tug of war with the whole family, and Hwatu a traditional card game. They also perform an elaborate costumed dance called Ganggangsullae that is performed under the full moon.
Pangangaluluwa, or All Soul’s Day, is a celebration very similar to how Halloween is celebrated in America. The holiday begins on November 1st and is done to help their ancestors who are stuck in purgatory find their way to heaven. The holiday includes a feast and children dressing up in either ghoulish costumes or fancy ball gowns and then going door to door to sing a prayer. Many people consider this tradition similar to trick or treating. It’s amazing how two countries so far apart can share such a unique tradition!
The Awura Odo Festival, translated as the Return of the Dead Festival, is celebrated every year starting in September and October and then ending in April every two years. In September and October, it is believed that spirits return to Earth to visit their families and help the living. The holiday is celebrated with feasts, music, and elaborate masks and costumes. When the dead return, a play called the Odo Play, is performed in the public square by the Odo Shrine and members of the community participate.
Pitru Paksha, or the Fortnight of the Ancestors, is a two-week celebration through a lunar cycle. This year the celebrations begin on September 16th and end October 1st. It is a Hindu celebration that believes that when a person passes they join their family in the afterlife but are allowed to briefly return to say goodbye to their living loved ones. Pitru Paksha is celebrated with a fire ritual called Shraddha, a big feast with food offerings for the deceased, recite poetry, and give gifts to the local temple.
It’s amazing how so many cultures share the same holiday but have unique ways of celebrating. I especially love that in some countries Halloween lasts for weeks. I wish Christmas lasted as long as some of these holidays!
Hopefully, some of these unique traditions have inspired your family to celebrate the holidays in unique ways. Here at the North Pole, we’re always looking for new ways to celebrate the Christmas joy, which is why we decided to have Santa reach out to all the good boys and girls around the world before Christmas. With Packages From Santa’s help, your child can receive a personal letter, phone call, and video from Santa himself! It’s a wonderful new way to kick-off the holidays and begin an annual family tradition!