Halloween is upon us, and we are all set to watch Hocus Pocus and Addam’s Family, carve pumpkins, and sip cocktails in our costume. But have you ever wondered about the origins of Halloween? Rumor says that the Celtic holiday of Samhain was the original Halloween. Locals celebrated the shift from summer to autumn, and the transition of spirits who moved on to the next life. Communities gathered around bonfires on hilltops, and feasted on the shared harvests before winter set in. As time passed, traditions in the United States were revived and adapted until we settled on Trick or Treating activities we love today. However, most countries have their own uniquest of traditions and rituals. Here’s a closer look at some of the Halloween celebrations around the world.
The Puca Festival – Ireland
The mischievous Puca, from ancient Celtic folklore, is the namesake for this festival. He has inspired many other literary characters, and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s dream was reputedly modeled after him. Today, traditional processions kickoff this 3-day festival as they parade around ancient archeological sites and ruins. History is showcased through theatre, spectacle, and storytelling. Observers attend concerts, learn about the archeological finds, visit theatres and movies, or dive into the delicious feasts.
Day of Dracula – Romania
Romania’s staggering stone churches and monasteries feel like a step back in time. While newer generations grew up on Hotel Transylvania, we first learned about the dark Romanian landscape through our favorite horror story, Dracula. The gothic castles, untamed wilderness, and the dark waters described makes it a perfect tale for Halloween celebrations. The castle Bram Stoker described with painstaking detail was actually inspired by a one deep in the Carpathian mountain.
Visitors travel from all around the world to see the castle, and alleged home, of Vlad the Impaler. A medieval prince with a thirst for blood, Vlad is a controversial national hero of Romania, and was the inspiration for Count Dracula. Join the celebration by going to any the many costume parties, and experience the spooky energy by reliving history. If you want to learn more about the “real” Dracula and his beginnings, visit his birthplace, Sighisoarato, But be sure to visit Bucharest. It’s a vibrant city with activities and gothic parties all around the town.
Day of the Dead – Mexico
Mexico’s Dia de Muertos is one of the best known, and most colorful Halloween celebrations. This festival gets it roots from Aztec beliefs and traditions. Artists and craftsman take pride in elaborate Grand Processions of Catrinas. Locals step out with detailed skull paintings on their faces and body. Romanian people may celebrate a night filled with terror and mischief, but the Day of the Dead festivities are an explosion of joy and life-affirmation that lasts 2 days. Here, the point of the occasion is to celebrate the life and story of the dearly departed, rather than mourn their loss. Families build altars, and bake Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead) to welcome and honor the spirits. Celebrants recite poems mocking the living, make paper crafts, and wear costumes. It’s a day filled with pride, ancestry, culture, and a unified belief.
Hungry Ghost Festival – East Asian countries
Just like Mexico, cultures in many East Asian countries celebrate their departed friends and loved ones. The “Ghost Day” lands on the 15th night of the 7th month, and legend says that’s when restless spirits leave the realms of heaven and hell to roam the earth. Honoring the dead, and respect for tradition is an important part of this festival. The day is spent preparing food (often vegetarian), and the burning of incense. According to traditions in Hong Kong, people even burn paper mâché food, Joss paper (fake money that symbolizes riches), and other luxuries. Families also offer Hell money, sheets of bamboo or rice paper, symbolizing the currency of the afterlife. People in countries like Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and India celebrate similar versions of this festival as well.
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