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Halloween is celebrated differently all around the world. While Canadians and Americans spend Halloween dressing up and going trick-or-treating, countries around the world have their own unique traditions for celebrating the dead.

Here are five countries that have some interesting and spooky Halloween-like traditions.

Mexico – Día De Los Muertos

Día De Los Muertos, also known as the “Day of the Dead,” is celebrated in Mexico and Latin America from November 1st to November 2nd. The holiday involves gathering family and friends to pray and remember the past generations of family members who have died. Mexicans view this holiday as a day of celebration rather than a day of sadness. They help support their loved ones on their spiritual journeys while celebrating with them. The holiday is celebrated with altars of fruit, turkey, tortillas and soda which are all left as offerings for the ghosts of their families.

The Philippines – Pangangaluwa

Pangangaluwa is a folk tradition in the Philippines where kids visit houses at night to sing songs related to All Saint’s Day. They dress up in costumes and ask for prayers for those stuck in purgatory. This practice is often done on October 31st, the day before the “Day of the Dead,” also known as All Saint’s Day. Pangangaluwa is also associated with superstition. Many individuals believe the door that connects the world of the living and the dead opens during All Saint’s Day, causing the souls who died on November 1st to return to the world of the living. Citizens prepare Kakanin, various sticky rice cakes and food made from sweet potato and purple yam as a tribute for the hungry souls.

India – Pitru Paksha

Pitru Paksha is a 16-lunar day period in the Hindu calendar where Hindus pay respect to their ancestors through food offerings. According to Hindu tradition, the souls of three previous generations of one’s ancestors live in Pitriloka, a realm between heaven and earth. The realm is ruled by Yama, the god of death. Yama takes the soul of a dying man from earth to Pitriloka. As the next generation dies, the first generation moves to heaven and unites with God. To ensure their family’s place in the afterlife, individuals must prepare the ritual of Shraddha, which includes a fire ritual. If Shraddha isn’t performed, the soul of the dead will wander Earth for eternity. During Pitru Paksha, families offer the dead food such as kheer (sweet rice and milk), rice, lentils, beans and pumpkins.

Hong Kong – The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in certain East Asian countries. It originated in ancient India, deriving from the Mahayana scripture. The day is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the seventh month according to the lunar calendar. During this time, ghosts and spirits of dead ancestors come out from the lower realm to visit the living. On this day it is believed that the realms of heaven, hell and the living are open for both Taoists and Buddhists to perform rituals that free the sufferings of the dead. The festival is a way to feed these restless spirits with the food and money they need for the afterlife.

Japan – Kawasaki Halloween Parade

Japan had its first-ever Halloween event in 2000 at Tokyo Disneyland, making it a fairly new holiday. Kawasaki Halloween Parade is the most famous Halloween parade in all of Japan. It takes place at the end of every October where nearly 4000 individuals from around the world dress up in Halloween costumes and gather in Kawasaki, just outside Tokyo. However, the parade is considered quite elite in Japan. The Kawasaki Halloween Parade has strict guidelines and standards, making individuals apply for entry two months before the parade occurs.

These fascinating Halloween-like traditions display the different ways the dead are honoured around the world. While we dress up in scary costumes and go trick-or-treating, countries around the world celebrate in quite contrasting ways.

Chandni Bhatt

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Chandni is a fourth-year Global Studies and Political Science student. She loves writing, reading and binge-watching Netflix tv-shows.
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