Around the world Halloween is celebrated in various ways with one common thread; it is the day that honours the dead. These traditions either focus on protecting oneself from the spirits of the dead, respecting and remembering dead relatives, or trying to provide comfort to the spirits of the otherworld — a far cry from the trick-or-treating done throughout North America. Here is a compilation of some of the most interesting acts performed around Halloween.
Barmbrack in Ireland
In Ireland, Barmbrack is a Halloween tradition that consists of making a delicious fruitcake. Sounds normal enough, except for one thing. There are treats baked inside and wrapped in the fabric of the fruitcake to predict the future. If the cloth has a ring in it, it indicates romance. If the dessert lover find a coin, it means wealth, and a thimble means you won’t marry. Make sure not to bite down on the item. Ouch!
Leaving water and bread in Austria
In Austria, people welcome spirits back from the other world for an entire week! All Saint’s Week runs from October 30 to November 8. People will leave bread and water out for the spirits so they have something to eat when they visit. The tradition is a celebration, but the act of leaving food and water out prevents these angry spirits from retaliating.
El Dia Los Meurtos in Latin America
Day of the Dead is one of the most celebrated traditions in many countries around Latin America and is a three day celebration from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. It is known as El Dia los Muertos and celebrates deceased relatives. Candy, flowers, photos, and interestingly, the relative’s favourite foods are placed on an alter as an offering. Candles are also lit to show the spirits where to go. On the last day of the celebration, relatives will go to a cemetery for a picnic to reminisce about people they have lost.
Burning fruit in Hong Kong
Hong Kong celebrates a tradition called ‘Yue Lan’, also known as the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. It is held on October 31 and runs for 24 hours. People will burn money, fruit, and photos as offerings to the dead. It has two purposes: to bring comfort to the dead and to appease them from seeking revenge on the living. Fires are lit to burn the offers and kept alit to ward off ill-tempered ghosts.
Devil’s night is a recent tradition that has become more popular in the United States and even in some places in Canada including Winnipeg and Montreal. It is celebrated the night before Halloween and consists of people committing small acts of vandalism and arson. Some of the “tricks” consist of harmless pranks such as throwing rotten fruit at houses. More serious crimes are also committed as exemplified by events in Detroit where volunteers, calling the event Angel’s Night, have started patrolling the streets to prevent violence. With all the clown sightings lately, Devil’s night definitely gives the creep-crawlies.
Whether people try to protect themselves from the spirits of the dead, honour and welcome them or a mix of both, Halloween gives people the opportunity to celebrate a darker and fascinating part of the human psyche; our attraction to the fearful known of our future.