Trick-or-treating among the nations


In some countries, the lighting of candles is an important custom for honoring the dead. In China, a candle is lit for the dead during the 'Ghost Festival,' in Japan, the light shines for a deceased loved one during the 'Obon Festival,' and lastly a candle is placed near the altar of an ancestor in the Spanish speaking countries for 'El Día de Los Muertos.' Sarah Jackmauh '14

Although countries around the world have different customs for celebrating Halloween, many nations all share some American aspects of the holiday, such as trick-or-treating.
Sarah Jackmauh ’15

“Trick or Treat!” yell American children as they parade through the neighborhood streets begging for candy.
This is the traditional Halloween image to which many Americans are accustomed. The costumes, decorations and candy are the icons of American Halloween. However, these conventions may be unheard of for people of other countries.
Halloween is celebrated all over the world, each country with a different twist on the holiday. Although varying among nations, the tradition of Halloween started in Ireland.
The idea of Halloween began when the Celtic tribe inhabited Ireland. As the winter season approached, the tribe wanted to ensure that the sun would return after the winter was over. So, they hosted a festival on October 31, lighting a large bonfire and praying that the sun would shine brightly after the winter.
The next day, as a sign of good luck, the people went back to light fires using the wood from the bonfire. They sheltered themselves in animal skins as costumes to hide themselves from bad luck.
The Celts referred to Halloween as the Samhain Festival. On the day of this festival, October 31, the Celts celebrated a time where the worlds of the living and the dead became closer. The Samhain Eve was the night on which the Celts lit bonfires to honor the dead. Eventually, the Samhain Festival became All Saints’ Day, and October 31 became known as Halloween.
The Irish tend to dress up in different costumes and parade around a bonfire on Halloween. Junior Sarah Drumm, in 1997, gets ready for a night of trick-or-treating and fireworks.
courtesy of Sarah Drumm ’14

The Celtic customs have not only spread and been adapted internationally, but remain prevalent in the place where Halloween all began. Convent of the Sacred Heart junior Sarah Drumm, a native of Ireland, reveals what her nation does on Halloween.
“The bonfire is definitely the most important part of Halloween night there,” Sarah said.
Sarah said that in Ireland, gathering wood for the bonfire can turn into a competition.  Once lit, communities dance around the fire and indulge in candy picked up earlier in the evening while trick-or-treating.
“Another tradition is the baking of a ‘barmbrack’ or in Gaeilge, a ‘Bairín Breac,’ which is a fruit cake with a hidden ring or other treasure inside. Irish tradition says that the person who cuts the slice of cake with the ring will marry within the year!” Sarah said.
Many other European countries have very similar Halloween celebrations as America, such as France and England, and  partake in trick-or-treating events on October 31. Spain, however, has its own unique tradition.
El Día de los Muertos is a holiday celebrated in Spain, as well as in Latin America and Mexico. It is a three day holiday that commences on October 31 and lasts until November 2. Unlike the American Halloween, which emphasizes the frightening aspect of ghosts,   El Día de los Muertos celebrates the dead.
People in all Spanish speaking countries follow the same custom of creating an altar in their house. On the altar, they place candies, flowers, candles and incense to honor a dead family member. Candles are burned to help the dead find their way home. Items that the deceased person valued, such as photographs, their favorite food, and any other object that has meaning, are also placed on the altar. This altar is made to welcome the ghost of the deceased back to earth on Halloween. The people believe that the dead return to earth on Halloween night,  and celebrate their lives during this three day fiesta.
On the other side of the globe, honoring of the dead is also practiced  in China.  Halloween, however, is not commonly celebrated in China, according to upper school Chinese teacher, Mrs. Joanne Havemeyer. This is because the Chinese are in constant awe of God and ghosts.
“Most people celebrate the ‘Ghost Festival’ instead of Halloween. ‘Ghost Festival’ falls on July 1 of the lunar calendar,” Mrs. Havemeyer said.
In some countries, the lighting of candles is an important custom for honoring the dead. In China, a candle is lit for the dead during the ‘Ghost Festival,’ in Japan, the light shines for a deceased loved one during the ‘Obon Festival,’ and lastly a candle is placed near the altar of an ancestor in the Spanish speaking countries for ‘El Día de Los Muertos.’
Sarah Jackmauh ’15

During the “Ghost Festival” a candle is lit and placed in a lantern with the name of the deceased person on it. These lanterns are then placed to flow down a river.
On October 31 in China, however, American traditions have become blended into Chinese culture.
“You start seeing the influence of American Halloween among some of the young generations. They will put on scary costumes and masks wandering on the street with their friends,” Mrs. Havemeyer said.
Like China, Japan is similar in their celebration of the Ghost Festival. Traditional Japanese families celebrate the Obon Festival in which candles are lit for their dead ancestors. Nevertheless, Japanese culture is also heavily influenced by American practices such as trick-or-treating. Junior Maggie Ellison, who lived in Japan for nine years, spent a few Halloweens in the country.
“Japanese kids in general were much more honest about how much candy they took. You could leave out bowl of candy with a sign saying ‘take one’ and people would just take one piece of candy rather than handfuls,” Maggie said.
Each culture has its own way of celebrating Halloween. Whether it takes place in July, or involves a bonfire and fireworks, these countries acknowledge spirits on Earth.
– Sarah Jackmauh, Staff Writer