CELEBRATING THE DAY OF THE DEAD
Take a look at how people from different countries around the world celebrate Halloween and the Day of the Dead to see what the end of October means to their cultures
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Luke Besley
31 October 2019
Halloween Eve is upon us and there is nothing like the end of October to give you the autumn feels. Today millions of people put a spin on this Celtic tradition and celebrate this day according to their culture. We take a look at what the end of October means to people from different countries around the world.
MEXICO - DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS
Parts of Latin America and Mexico honour the spirits of their friends and loved ones, who have passed away. The day is well-known across the world for the flower crowns that people wear and the black and white makeup that makes them look like skeletons. Mexicans believe that at midnight on the 31st of October the Gates of Heaven open up and the souls of children, who have passed away, return to Earth so that they can reunite with their families for one whole day. Two days later, on 2nd of November, the souls of adults come down to Earth to join in so that the living can reunite with the spirits of the people they love. This day that honours the pre-Hispanic Mexican culture, has a beautiful message. It is a celebration, which has been around for 2,500–3,000 years.
PERU – DIA DE LA CANCION CRIOLLA
In true Peruvian style people celebrate the criollo culture of the country through Día de la Canción Criolla. The day was officially established back in 1944 on October the 18th by the Peruvian President Manuel Prado y Ugarteche and the then Minister of Education Pedro M. Oliveira. The celebration revolves around honouring the Lord of Miracles. People perform on the streets. There is dancing and music everywhere in celebration of the Creole culture, which reflects a lifestyle that has Old World roots, but originates and started in the Americas.
POLAND - DZIEŃ ZADUSZNY
The locals in this European destination spend the end of November by going to cemeteries to visit the graves of their loved ones. They take candles and flowers with them to honour the memory of their family members and sing prayers together. This is not much different to other European countries, such as Bulgaria, where people tend to visit the graves of their family members as often as they feel the need to throughout the whole year. They light up candles and bring flowers and food with them to offer the spirit of the person who had passed away the things they loved to have whilst they were alive – for example it is a common practice to light up a cigarette if the person was a smoker and wait for it to burn out, or spill some wine in the ground to satisfy their thirst.
ROMANIA - DAY OF DRACULA
Transylvania is the place to be on 31st October. Each year the place hosts dozen people from all around the world to celebrate The Day of the Dead. Bran Castle is a popular destination as it is the home of Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes, also known as Count Dracula. Other parts of Romania also pay their respects to the Halloween celebrations, but Transylvania seems to attract much more attention because of the mystery around the city. There are guide tours that can take people around Bran Castle on Halloween Eve – a cool and spooky way to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
NIGERIA - AWURU ODO FESTIVAL
This celebration in the African country lasts up to six months. People honour the spirit of the dead and praise their return to the world of the living. The festival is often complimented by music and beautiful feasts. Locals wear masks and dance in the days before the spirits of the dead come down to Earth. It is a belief in the Nigerians’ culture that the spirits only visit the world of the living once every two years, which is why the festival is not a yearly occasion, but it is celebrated every other year.
CAMBODIA - PCHUM BEN
Cambodia celebrates the spirits of the dead in a similar way to Europe. Families gather together mid-October to celebrate this religious tradition. They go to temples with baskets of flowers to pay their respect to the dead. Cambodians also give away beans and sticky rice that have been wrapped up in banana leaves. This tradition goes beyond the spirits. People also pay their respects to the elderly so that Pchum Ben is also held in their honour.
On this day, children in the Philippines go door-to-door knocking and sing songs and say prayers by pretending to be souls lost in purgatory. The people who answer the knocking of the doors are expected to give something to “the lost souls”, which they can bring back with them to the world of the non-living. Even though it has become more commercialised with time, some locals are trying to bring the day of Pangangaluluwa back to its roots.
HONG KONG - THE HUNGRY GHOST FESTIVAL
The Hungry Ghost Festival is not just a one-day celebration – it begins mid-August and lasts until mid-September. In the East Asian culture, it is believed that the Gates of the Afterlife open. Then, the spirits of the dead are being released around this time of the year so they could be free to roam the Earth. The living ones are supposed to offer them all the money, food and goods they may require living peacefully in the afterlife. The “hungry ghost” term translates to a being, who is influenced by its emotional needs in an animalistic way. The festival originates from the Chinese Buddhism and has been celebrated for a long, long time allowing people to worship their ancestors.
AUSTRALIA – ALL HALLOWS’ EVE
Australian celebrate Halloween pretty much the way the Americans do. You can expect kids dressed up in costumes and, of course, trick-or-treating is a must. However, some houses don’t follow this tradition. It is a relatively new thing for people to leave an orange balloon outside their front doors – if there is a balloon hanging outside, people are welcome to come over looking for sweets; if there isn’t a balloon, that means the house is not part of the celebration. Halloween originates from the ancient Celtic harvest festival known as Samhain, but today people keep the tradition alive with pumpkin carving and ghosts stories. Black cats, spiders and bats have all become symbols of the autumn celebration form America all the way to the Australian continent.