With Halloween just around the corner, haven’t you ever wondered how the dead are celebrated in countries apart from USA and Canada?

The Sherp did some digging and racked up a constructive list of the most fascinating Halloween-esque festivals that exist.


1. Los Dias de los Muertos or ‘Days of the Dead’ – Mexico

Celebrated quite elaborately in Mexico, this three day commemoration of the dead ancestors and relatives begins on October 31 and ends on All Souls’ Day, November 2. It must be noted that Los Dias de los Muertos is a happy celebration of the dead, unlike Halloween where the spirits are supposedly volatile and angry, even though the two festivals coincide . Families construct altars in their homes decorated by flowers and pictures of their loved ones who have passed. They place the deceased’s favourite food and drink around the altar and even leave a basin and towel, for the spirit to use before tucking into its treats. Apart from treating the dead like royalty, families often travel to graveyards to decorate loved one’s gravestones and host a picnic in celebration.

Modern traditions include skull shaped candy and face-painting.

Los Dias de los Muertos is also celebrated in other Spanish-speaking nations like Spain and Latin America.


2. Obon or the Festivals of the Lanterns – Japan 

The visually mesmerising Japanese version of Halloween is held in the month of August, and often goes by it’s second name – The Festival of Lanterns. Much like it’s Mexican counterpart, Obon is a celebration of souls and spirits who come to visit their earthly relatives. In the context of Buddhism, the Japanese prepare offerings of special food for the spirits of their ancestors and also hang paper lanterns in front of their houses to help their dead ancestors find their way home. Colourful candle-lit lanterns are also sent down various rivers and bays of Japan for the same purpose.

obon(Image Courtesy : www. japantraveladvisor.blogspot.in)

3.  The Sicilian Halloween – Sicily

Come All Saints Day morning, the children of Sicily will find fruit shaped marzipan waiting for them as presents from the dead.

4. Chusok – Korea

The end of August marks the celebration of Chusok in Korea. Families thank their dead relatives for all their past hard work, the fruits of which they are enjoying now. Rice, fruits and other forms of food are offered to these spirits at various temples.


5.  Samhain –  Ireland and Scotland

Samhain is the original Halloween festival, a cultural celebration that was born in Ireland way before it’s reached the United States and Canada. Samhain started as a Celtic end-of-harvest holiday, which was believed to be the day when the line between this world and the after-world was thinned, therefore allowing spirits to pass through. In order to trick these spirits people dressed up as ghouls and spirits to escape the notice of the ghosts passing by. These ghosts were often angry and therefore were offered sweets and treats by their earthly companions in an effort to appease them. The birth of Christianity in the region turned Samhain into Halloween. Trick-or-treating, costumes and Jack-o-Lanterns are commonly observed traditions.


6. Teng Chieh – China

In China on Teng Chieh, food and drink is placed in front of pictures of dead family members while bonfires and lanterns are lit to guide the spirits of the dead as they travel around the earth. Chinese Buddhist traditions once again include, ‘boats of the law’ – giants paper boats that are burned during after sunset. This signifies remembrance as well as releasing spirits or ‘pretas’ of people who died of accidents or by drowning. Pretas are like unsatisfied spirits that need to be released into heaven or will other cause havoc on earth, the Chinese believe.

Teng Chieh

7. Yue Lan or Festival of the Hungry Ghosts – Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Halloween celebration is quite different from it’s Chinese counterpart. On The Festival of Hungry Ghosts people believe spirits roam the world for 24 hours, which is why they burn pictures of fruit and money so that these images would reach the ghosts in the spirit world thus bringing them comfort.

Hungry ghosts festival(Image Courtesy : HkDave1/ Flickr)