While Halloween may have originated from the Celts in Ireland, it has spread quite quickly all over the world, reaching continents as far as Asia. It’s also remarkable how different cultures manage to incorporate this old tradition with their own. In this entry, let me take you to some of those places and see how Halloween manifests itself there.
In China, Halloween is called by another name: Teng Chieh. During this day, the Chinese would offer food and drink to their departed ancestors by setting them before old photographs. They also light bonfires or lanterns in order to serve as a guide for the spirits who walk the Earth. In Buddhist temples, many people make “Boats of Law” which are to be burned during the night. The purpose of this is to remember the dead and to help the spirits who died a tragic death to move on.
In Czechoslovakia, they place chairs by the fireplace and remember the dead by eating special cakes and drinking cold milk. The purpose of this is to help alleviate the heat the souls are experiencing in Purgatory. Families also gather at cemeteries to pay respect to their departed ancestors.
In Hong Kong, people believe that this is a day when spirits are free to roam this plane. As part of the ritual, they burn pictures of fruit and/or money, believing that these can reach the spirits. They call Halloween Yue Lan or Festival of the Hungry Ghosts.
In Germany, knives are carefully stored away because they want to avoid the spirits being harmed. Although I am not too sure what the connection is.
In Mexico, Halloween is certainly treated as a happy occasion. Instead of grieving, the people celebrate their departed loved ones. The same goes for Spain and the rest of Latin America. Their Halloween also goes by the name El Dia De Los Muertos. Families create altars for the dead for they believe that spirits would return to their homes on this day. The altar is decorated with flowers, candy and photographs and samples of the deceased’s favorite food and drinks. A basin of water is also placed nearby for the souls to wash up before the feast. Incense and lanterns are also lighted in order to help said souls find their way. One particular ritual that stands out, however, is the placing of a live person inside a coffin. The coffin is paraded around town while the people throw candies, flowers and fruits inside.
Personally, where I come from, we only celebrate Halloween by visiting the graves of our departed loved ones. Some of the kids go trick or treating while the adults go and have fun at Halloween parties.