“Trick or treat!” will be the phrase of the day tomorrow as kids disguised in all sorts of costumes go from house to house to collect goodies on this spine-tingling holiday. Halloween and other holidays with a similar background are celebrated all around the world. And since our employees come from over 65 nations, we asked them about spooky ghost traditions from their homelands. But before we introduce you to the hair-raising details, we’ll explain the origins of Halloween itself.
How it all began
The roots of Halloween go back hundreds of years. Some of the first people to celebrate a precursor of this festival were the Celts in Ireland. Back then, the colder days and longer nights meant that hard times were on the way – snow and ice blanketed the green island, and the harvests gathered in the very final weeks of autumn had to fill hungry bellies until spring. Death was ever-present during these merciless months. The Celts believed that ghosts would find a path to earth and wander among the living. Hollowed out turnips with candles were set out to keep these spirits at bay, and offerings were made to appease them. The Celts hoped that this would allow them to survive the frosty season to come.
Over the centuries, the old customs changed and merged under the influence of other cultures and religions. In the 19th century, Irish immigrants carried the tradition over the big pond to America where it developed into the popular celebration that we know today. This is also when jack-o’-lanterns started being made with pumpkins instead of turnips – they grew there in abundance and were easy to find.
USA – Halloween
Our colleague Andrew from the USA will tell you how “Uncle Sam” celebrates Halloween nowadays: “In the United States, Halloween is a pretty big deal. The most widespread tradition is “Trick or Treat”, where kids dress up in costumes and go from house to house through their neighborhood asking for candy. Almost everyone carves a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern and puts it outside their home, but some people go all out with decorations. If a house has spooky music, plastic skeletons, and cotton spider webs, they are probably giving out really good candy, too!”
Mexico – Dia de los Muertos
A traditional festival, which seems similar on first glance but is actually very different to Halloween, takes place on the 2nd of November in Mexico – our colleague Alejandra will tell you about it: “In Mexico, the Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all over the country. It’s a beautiful and very colorful festival with dancing and music, held in cheerful remembrance of the loved ones who passed away. Their souls are said to visit us on that day – to honor them, we decorate large altars on which we place “cempasúchil”: flowers, candles, photos, and also their favorite food and drinks. We bake a special bread called “pan de muertos” during this holiday as well and have special sweets such as the “Calaveras de Dulce”, skulls made of sugar and chocolate.”
China – Ghost Festival
In the Far East, there is a traditional festival to honor the dead, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Chinese moon calendar – this is usually in August. Our colleague Lu Wang from China will tell you about this tradition: “In my home country, we celebrate the ghost festival. The ghosts and souls of the deceased are said to travel from the underworld to earth to visit their bereaved loved ones. Dishes are served for these souls, and “hell bank notes” are burned as offerings. At the end of the festival, people put countless paper boats and lanterns on the water in order to help the souls find their way back home.”
Which tradition is your favorite? What is a traditional celebration from your home country? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page!