In today’s day and age, Halloween is an annual holiday with trick or treating, parades and bobbing for apples with family and friends. But many are unaware of the ancient origin stories of Halloween.
It all began 2,000 years ago as an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced as sow-in) celebrated on the 1st of November. The Celt’s believed on the night before Samhain, the deceased returned to earth as ghosts. They would put wine and food at their doorsteps to keep the ghosts away. If anyone stepped outside in the night, they would wear masks to be miskenned as a ghost by the hovering spirits.
Later in the 8th century, the Christian church changed Samhain into All Hallows Day which is now known as All Saints Day. The eve of All Hallows Day was called All Hallows’ Eve later shortened to Halloween.
Medieval Britain began the tradition of trick or treating. The needy would go door to door asking for food and in exchange pray for the family’s deceased relatives.
In the 19th century America, the Irish and Scottish immigrants changed this custom into trick or treating. But initially it was mainly tricks that prevailed and in the 1950s it changed and became a family friendly tradition.
Halloween went from warding away ghosts to a commercial festival. The United States spends around $ 2.5 Billion on costumes annually. Along with candy and decorations, it has been estimated the United States spends around $ 6 billion on Halloween every year. This makes Halloween the second most commercial holiday after Christmas.
Halloween is celebrating in different parts of the world but not all the celebrations are the same. Here are a few countries that celebrate Halloween differently.
China: China celebrates ‘Teng Chieh’ which is a Halloween festival dedicated to the deceased. An altar is made with the photographs of the departed relatives and food and water is placed in front of them. Lanterns and bonfires are lit in an attempt to guide the spirits to Earth.
France: The French are among a few countries that do not celebrate Halloween. In fact, they were unaware of what Halloween was until very recently. In the mid 1990s, was when some of the people in France began celebrating the festival just like in America.
Ireland: Halloween began in Ireland and the celebrations are not very different from the American celebrations. The Irish dress up in costumes and go door to door for trick or treating.
Mexico: The Mexicans celebrate Día de los Muertos translated to days of the deceased. The celebrations begin on the evening of 31st October and end on 2nd November. The days are dedicated to celebrating the lost lives of their loved ones by visiting their graves and remembering their days on earth. The same festival is celebrated in Spain and Latin America.
Japan: The Japanese celebrate Halloween much like the Chinese dedicating it to the spirits of their ancestors. Red lanterns are hung in celebration of the Obon Festival. The place is lit up with lights to guide the spirits to earth exactly like the Chinese do.
Philippines: Like most countries, Philippines celebrate Halloween as the day of the deceased. But they have kept up the earliest tradition of Guising. Guising was an ancient celebration where people sang songs about the deceased for food. The people of Philippines go door to door on Halloween singing songs about the spirits stuck in purgatory in exchange for money or food.
Sweden: Halloween became a part of Sweden in the 16th century. Initially, Halloween was a day of predicting the future. By the 18th century, it was a festival for the people of Sweden to find a spouse. It was only in the 19th century the tradition turned into the American way of celebrating Halloween.
United States: The American Halloween is the most famous way of celebrating the festival. Children take this opportunity to dress up in costumes and go trick or treating. The adults hold costume parties with food and alcohol. Families carve out pumpkins that are used as decorations in one of the most lavish festivals.
England: The English initially began celebrating Halloween with punkies. Children would carve beetroots which were called punkies. The children would carry the punkies around the streets singing the Punkie Night Song. They would return home with the punkies filled with money in return for warding away the spirits by singing. But after Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation the tradition of punkies slowly faded away. Now, some of the people in England try to celebrate the American Halloween but most are still ignorant about the festival.