Also known as ‘Allhalloween’, ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, or ‘All Saints’ Eve’, Halloween is traditionally a day to remember the dead; with most associating this with dressing up in ghoulish costumes.
It is one of the oldest festivals in the world, first thought to have signified the end of the harvest, and the beginning of winter. It is an important festival in many cultures, with distinct rituals in different countries around the globe.
The whole of the United States takes Halloween seriously, but in a small town north of Boston they dedicate the whole month of October to the festival. Salem is infamous for being the site of the witch trials in the 1690’s, resulting in a number of executions, mostly women. Hundreds of costumed people flock to Salem each year for the Halloween Ball.
Mexico, Latin America & Spain
“El Dia de los Muertos”, the Day of the Dead, is celebrated in most Spanish speaking nations, most famously in Mexico. This 3 day festival, beginning on 31 Oct, is a joyous event, where families remember their dead but also the continuity of life. People dress up in colourful skeleton costumes and dance in the street. On the 3rd day families visit their loved ones gravestones to adorn with flowers and wreaths.
“Teng Chieh”, The Lantern Festival, is a festival to remember the dead and to free spirits who were never buried, so they can ascend to heaven. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have passed away, and lanterns and bonfires are lit to light the way for the spirits as they travel from Earth.
“P’Chum Ben”, Festival of the Dead, marks the end of the 14 day festival of Pak Ben, where offerings of food and gifts are prepared and taken to the many temples and pagodas as offerings to living monks and their ancestors. Batches of rice and sesame seeds are spread around the grounds of the pagodas, left for hungry ghosts who are wandering the spirit world without ancestors to honour their memory.