It’s the time of the year again where children and adults dress up for Halloween, attending costume parties, carving pumpkins, committing pranks and the list goes on… Halloween is not only celebrated in America but also in South America and East Asia.
Mexico, Latin America And Spain
Among Spanish-speaking nations, Halloween is known as “El Dia de los Muertos.” It is a holiday to remember friends and family who have died. Officially commemorated on November 2nd (All Souls’ Day), the three-day celebration begins on the evening of October 31st, designed to honor the dead who are believed to return to their homes on Halloween. Many families construct an altar in their homes and decorate it with candies, flowers, photographs, fresh water and the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks.
Candles and incense are burned to help the departed find his or her way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of deceased family members, including snipping weeds, making repairs and painting. The graves are then adorned with flowers, wreaths or paper streamers. Often, a live person is placed inside a coffin, which is then paraded through the streets while vendors toss fruits, flowers and candies into the casket. On November 2nd, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some of these gatherings may even include tequila and a mariachi band although American Halloween customs are gradually taking over this celebration.
The Japanese celebrate the “Obon Festival” (also known as “Matsuri” or “Urabon”), which is similar to Halloween festivities that it is dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. Special foods are prepared and bright red lanterns are hung everywhere. Candles are lit and placed into lanterns, which are then set afloat in rivers and seas. During the “Obon Festival,” a fire is lit every night to lead the dead back to their families. “Obon” is one of the main occasions during the Japanese year when the dead are believed to return to their birthplaces. Memorial stones are cleaned and community dances performed. The “Obon Festival” takes place during July or August.
In Korea, the festival similar to Halloween is known as “Chusok.” It is at this time that families thank their ancestors for the fruits of their labor. The family pays respect to these ancestors by visiting their tombs and making offerings of rice and fruits. The “Chusok” festival takes place in the month of August.
In China, the Halloween festival is known as “Teng Chieh.” Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the Earth at night. Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion “boats of the law” from paper, some of which are very large, are then burned in the evening hours. The purpose of this custom is twofold: as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits of the “pretas” in order that they might ascend to heaven. “Pretas” are the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were consequently never buried. The presence of “pretas” among the living is thought by the Chinese to be dangerous. Under the guidance of Buddhist temples, societies are formed to carry out ceremonies for the “pretas,” that includes the lighting of lanterns. Monks are invited to recite sacred verses and offerings of fruit are presented.