By Devin Malone
The spookiest time of the year is around the corner, and just about everyone in America is getting their costumes prepared for another creepy Halloween. Yet, we often forget that not everyone celebrates the October 31 the same way. In fact, in a world filled with different cultures and customs, there are some ways that people celebrate the upcoming fall season that may surprise you.
In what is possibly the most well-known celebration around the time of Halloween, Mexico spends October 31 to November 2 celebrating Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead is a series of three days known as “All Saint’s Eve,” “All Saint’s Day,” and “All Souls Day,” in which Mexicans celebrate and honor the lives and passing of family members.
The Day of the Dead has its roots buried deep in ancient Aztec history, with the first celebration of the holiday dating back nearly 3,000 years ago. Back then, the indigenous Aztecs believed that the festivals were presided over by Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec Goddess of Death. They believed that life itself was just a dream and the awakening would happen after death. This positive outlook on the end of life still persists in Mexico to this day, even after the Spanish Christianized most of the Aztec way of life.
The Day of the Dead is celebrated by millions across Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
Across the Pacific Ocean, China celebrates a similar holiday called Tien Chieh, “The Festival of Hungry Ghosts.” This takes place in the fall season, but the date varies because the Chinese follow the lunar calendar. This Chinese festival has been practiced for at least 2,000 years and is still very prevalent in modern day China.
This holiday commemorates “hungry ghosts” which are not just hungry for food, but for attention. The spirits that are supposed to be let loose from their spiritual plane on this holiday are the ones who are forgotten by their descendants and feel rather upset about it. In order to make the ghosts feel welcome, the Chinese leave offerings such as food, money and other gifts in order to make the hungry ghosts feel comforted and remembered, akin to that of the Day of the Dead.
Not only that, but people light lanterns that illuminate the night as a way to guide the ghosts to their offerings. This magical light show is just one of the amazing things that can been seen in China, and is one of the most spectacular things you can witness in the fall season.
Ireland is considered to be the actual birthplace of “Halloween,” as it was first celebrated by the Celts nearly 2,000 years ago. The holiday originally went under a different name: “Samhain” or “Summer’s End.” It was celebrated annually on the evening of October 31 to mark the end of a crop cycle and the transition to winter.
The Celts in Ireland also believed that evil spirits were roaming around freely on this day, so people would try to ward them off by building large bonfires that brightened the dark night. If by chance someone had to leave the safety of the bonfires, they would dawn masks in order to trick these wandering spirits. Making loud noises was also supposed to drive these evil spirits away.
Yet, as with Mexico, the holiday was influenced by the Catholics to be less pagan. Pope Boniface made November 1 “All Hallows Day,” which in turn changed Samhain into “All Hallows Eve.” Essentially this made modern day Halloween which is still annually celebrated by the inhabitants of Ireland.
It seems that regardless of what part of the world you live in, the end of summer and the coming of winter is special for everyone. Whether it be a just a normal recreational holiday like it is in the United States, a special day like it is in China or even a large part of ancient culture like it is in both Mexico and Ireland, we all have our own celebration for the spookiest time of the year.