Halloween Traditions Around The World
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It seems like Halloween gets more and more popular in Australia every year. While many see the USA as its spiritual home, according to Katrina Barry of Contiki, Halloween has a number of cultural origins and unique traditions from all over the world.
Katrina shares these things you may not know about Halloween around the world:
Halloween actually originated from the Emerald Isle, deriving from a Gaelic festival called Samhain which marked the end of harvest and the start of the ‘darker’ season. Taking place from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, it was believed that the souls of the dead would revisit their homes so locals leave treats out to appease them.
In the earlier incarnations of Halloween, dressing up and a simple door knock wouldn’t have cut it in order to get a treat. As far back as the 16th century, participants across Great Britain would engage in mumming or guising, the act of singing, dancing or reciting a poem while in costume in exchange for food. The Scots are said to have introduced the ‘trick’ element, by threatening mischief if their efforts weren’t welcomed at the houses they visited.
In Italy, Halloween is overlooked in favour of All Souls’ Day, which is observed as a public holiday on 1st November. Beyond the closeness in the dates, there are many comparisons that can be drawn between the two holidays. All Souls Day sees families hold a great feast for those family members that have departed. They leave the meal, which sometimes includes bean-shaped cakes called Beans of the Dead, out for the deceased to enjoy while they go to church to pray for the souls and light candles in their honour.
Akin to Halloween in China is Teng Chieh which is celebrated on the 14th night of the seventh lunar month according to the Chinese calendar. On this night it is believed that the spirits of the deceased come back to visit the living. Families welcome their departed with offerings of food and light lanterns and bonfires to help them find their way home.
In Mexico, people gather together for Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) a three-day celebration that commemorates departed family and friends. The tradition originates from ancient Aztec culture, which sees life as a dream and death being a time when humans truly awake. Dia de Muertos is when the two worlds collide. Commons traditions include constructing private alters called ofrendas and adorning them with sugar skulls, flowers, candles and photographs. In some villages, people dress as skeletons and dance in the streets.
Everyone knows that America does Halloween bigger and better than anyone. But did you know that in some cities, such as Detroit, Michigan, the night before Halloween has its own horrific history. Since the 1930’s, October 30 has been commonly known as ‘Devil’s Night’, where local residents get up to all sorts of mischievous behaviour and up to 800 illegal fires were lit throughout the city during the ‘80s and ‘90s. After a particularly brutal Devil's Night in 1994, then-mayor Dennis Archer promised city residents arson would not be tolerated. In response, Detroit city officials organized and created ‘Angel’s Night’ where every year as many as 50,000 volunteers gather to patrol and protect neighbourhoods. As a result of their efforts, less than 100 ‘Devil’s Night’ fires now burn each year on the eve of Halloween.
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