Spooky, sentimental and celebratory - traditions of Halloween vary on the culture and values of each country. Delve into the diverse side of this holiday.
In Austria, bread, water and a lighted lamp are left out before going to bed. This is done because of the belief that it will welcome dead souls back to earth because of the strong cosmic energy on Halloween night.
Between the period of October 30 and November 8, Austrian Catholics celebrate Seleenwoche or All Souls’.
Catholics attend church service on All Saints’ Day to honour the saints, the martyrs and everyone who has died for the Catholic faith. It is traditional to visit their loved ones grave and decorate them with wreaths and small lanterns.J
For years Japan did not recognise Halloween but within the last
decade the increase of Halloween celebrations in Japan has exploded.
In Japan Halloween is called The Festival of the Dead or Obon. During this time dead souls return to the world of the living in order to visit their relatives.
Various Buddhists in Japan celebrate Halloween by preparing, offering and placing special food on altars in temples or in their homes for their ancestors’ spirits.
They end the celebration by sending bright and colourful paper lanterns, which are lit by candles, down the rivers and seas.
The colourful, bobbing, lights are supposed to guide their families and relatives back to their realm until next year.
The old Finnish version of Halloween is ‘Kekri’. It was a harvest celebration, during which people ate and drank well.
Also the spirits of the dead ancestors were welcomed to the feast, and sometimes even a sauna was heated for them. It was believed that the dead would still be able to enjoy the ‘spiritual essence’ of the meal. Only after these ‘guests’ had been satisfied, did the master of the house and his family start eating.
On the day of Kekri, the Kekri Goat (usually a man from the village, wearing a bear fleece, a mask and horns) would go around the village, knocking on the doors and asking for food and drinks.
The Kekri Goat was a terrifying character, and it was believed that if he didn’t get what he wanted, he would break the oven or do some other kind of mischief to the family.
Treating the Kekri Goat well meant that next year’s grain harvest would be plentiful. Nowadays the Finnish have adopted the American way of celebrating Halloween, mostly due to Hollywood films and American TV shows.
Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is common in Latin America.
It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where the day is a bank holiday.
Families travel to cemeteries to visit the souls of the dead. They decorate the graves with flowers to attract the souls of the dead to visit them. Also food and drinks are provided.
The Day of the Dead is meant to be a happy day, during which the living remember their departed relatives.
Sometimes families build altars in their homes, and gather around the altar to pray and tell stories of the deceased. The altars are decorated with candles, fruit and pan de muerto (“bread of dead”).
Igbo people in Nigeria celebrate the Odo Festival from September through April. The festival marks the return of the Odo (dead) to the living.
There are three stages; the ritual celebration and welcoming of the spirit of family member, the communication and living with the living and lastly the departure of the spirits. This is an emotional affair because they will not return for two years.A large performance takes place during the last stage of the festival where Igbo men re-enact the holiday story with masks, xylophones and drums.
The men portray the spirits through masks decorated with beads, leaves and feathers.
1) Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays which originated as the Pagan new year Samhain.
2) The record for the largest Halloween gathering was set by 17,777 people at an event organised by New Orleans Saints and NBC Sports in Louisiana, New Orleans on 31st October 2010.
3) The Celtics were the first group of people to dress up on Halloween. They dressed as ghouls so that wandering spirits would mistake them for one of their own and leave them alone.
4) Carved pumpkins or jack-’o-lanterns were used to ward off evil spirits by medieval Britons.
5) The world record for the quickest time to carve a pumpkin is set by American Stephen Clarke who carved his pumpkin in an unbelievable 16.47 seconds.
6) In England Trick or Treating first started in 1000 A.D when poor people would visit the houses of wealthy homeowners and receive pastries called soul cakes which in exchange, the poor people would be asked to pray for the homeowners dead relatives.
7) A controversial Ebola contamination suit costume has been made ready for this year’s Halloween. The Ebola virus has killed 4,500 people so far.
By Esther Ademiju and Mirva Villa